VANCOUVER- For the second straight season, an Original Six franchise won on the road to cap a Stanley Cup run that ended a lengthy championship drought.
The Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 Wednesday behind the Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas’s shutout and two goals a piece from Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
This was their third Game 7 of the playoffs and the third time they came from behind in a series to win.
“Whenever our backs were against the wall and we had to come up big to get where we wanted to go, we did it,” Thomas said.
The victory was the only road win for either team in the series. This championship is the the Bruins’ first since 1972.
“You’ve been waiting a long time, but you got it. You wanted it, you got it. We’re bringing it home,” Thomas said.
Boston’s triumph also capped the 1841-game career of the three-time Stanley Cup champion Mark Recchi, who announced his retirement after the game.
“This is what I came back for and this is everything I dreamed of,” Recchi said. “It’s a great way to go out, there’s no better way and there’s no better feeling right now.”
Recchi, Marchand and Bergeron skated together throughout the playoffs and did all the offensive damage for the Bs Wednesday.
“That whole line has been awesome. Every game they started the game and they set the tone for us. We just followed,” forward Chris Kelly said.
Boston was not favored in the series, having been dismissed by many experts as being too slow, less skilled or incapable of competing on special teams.
“I think everyone had us written off at the beginning of the series,” the Vancouver-born Bruin Milan Lucic told The Vancouver Sun. “We answered everyone’s questions with what we’re going to do with the Sedins and Kesler and Luongo and it feels good.”
For Lucic, the Stanley Cup added to his list of achievements in his hometown, including a Memorial Cup victory and being drafted by the Bruins.
His squad entered the series with anemic power-play numbers as well as penalty-killing percentages that were slightly behind Vancouver’s. The Canucks were the NHL’s top power play during the season and that success held through the first three rounds.
In this series, Vancouver went a woeful 2-33 on the power play. They were not only outscored by Boston’s power play, but also by their penalty killers, who struck three times shorthanded.
“It was pretty sweet,” Kelly said. “I thought our penalty kill did a phenomenal job all playoffs. Our best penalty-killer was Timmy Thomas.”
For Vancouver, a year in which they won the Presidents Trophy as the NHL’s best regular-season squad ended without consummation. The loss has been described as “disappointing” by their captain Henrik Sedin and even “devastating” by goalie Roberto Luongo, who struggled at times during the series.
After the game, that frustration boiled over into violence on several streets, causing as yet untold damages to business and public works. Over 150 people were treated for injuries and more than 100 others were arrested.
The game itself began with loads of intensity and emotion on the ice and in the stands.
It was a distinct and familiar face, Marchand, stirring it up offensively early for the Bruins. He daringly carried the puck up the left wing against pressure, dangled deep into the faceoff dot and centered a perfectly weighted pass for David Krejci. A sprawling Luongo made the stop.
In transition, Henrik Sedin weaved deftly in on Thomas, who responded with a close-range save of his own.
The Sedin twins nearly worked their magic just over seven minutes into the opening period. Henrik hit Daniel in space but he had to receive the puck on his backhand. His shot nearly beat Thomas, who gloved the puck looking behind him to force a freeze.
Boston opened the scoring, giving them only their second lead of the series in Vancouver and their first 1-0 lead.
Off an offensive-zone faceoff win, Marchand wormed along the right-wing boards and turned in another slick centering pass. This time it was for Bergeron, who tapped home the go-ahead goal.
“I’m not sure it was intended for me, but I was ready for it,” Bergeron said. “We sort of surprised them.”
The goal stood as the game-winner, adding to the borderline invincibility of the Bruins when scoring first in these playoffs.
It was also the only of Boston’s three Game-7-winners that was not scored by Nathan Horton, who was severely concussed in Game 3 by Aaron Rome. Horton made the trip and celebrated in uniform with his teammates despite his absence from the lineup.
“It doesn’t matter who scored, we won, that’s all that matters,” said Horton, who dumped a bit of Boston “dirty water” on the Vancouver ice. “All we’ve been through, we’ve won a Cup, that’s all that matters.”
Vancouver responded with a fine chance of their own. Jeff Tambellini zigzagged through traffic and his errant stick-handle set up the recovering Ryan Kesler with a tight shot on Thomas.
Controversy ensued when Chris Higgins hit the ice for a line change and launched himself into the towering Zdeno Chara. Chara remained down on the ice briefly but no interference penalty was called on the play in the waning moments of the period.
Chara and his defense partner Dennis Seidenberg had regularly logged over 30 minutes and been superb against the Sedin line throughout the series.
Physical play continued in the second stanza with neither team letting an opponent skate by unmolested. The Bruins did not register a shot on goal between Bergeron’s tally and a point over seven minutes into the middle frame.
Thomas held them in the game once again. Although he admitted to having moments of nervousness and outright fear during the series, Thomas’s brilliance almost became a given for Boston, particularly from Game 3 onward.
“I would not think about saying anything negative about the goalies that I’ve had because I’ve had some great ones, like Marty Brodeur,” coach Claude Julien said. “But Tim Thomas in these playoffs just totally dominated. That’s the sign of a great goaltender.”
The former Vermont Catamount Thomas became just the second college graduate to backstop a team to the Stanley Cup. The other was Montreal’s Ken Dryden, whom Thomas joined as a Conn Smythe Trophy winner along with the likes of Patrick Roy and Bernie Parent.
A dangerous turnover between the circles by Chara put the puck right on Alex Burrows’ stick. Seidenberg slid on one knee to take away the shooting lane and avert disaster.
Marchand continued his scoring spree in the series when his forehand move pulled Luongo hard to his right, creating space for a brilliant wraparound goal off Marchand’s backhand. The goal was Marchand’s tenth of the playoffs, adding to what was already a Boston rookie record.
“It’s incredible how he stepped up, what a way to start your career,” Recchi said.
Vancouver came hard in an effort to reduce their deficit. They pinned the Bruins deep, sustaining pressure long enough to draw an interference call against Boston’s defensive anchor Chara.
What appeared to an opportunity for the Canucks to regain their footing turned into a calamity. Seidenberg and Gregory Campbell sprang Bergeron for a shorthanded goal that broke Vancouver’s back. A back-checking Christian Ehrhoff took Bergeron down but as he crashed into the crease the puck got by Luongo.
“For Bergie to score that shorty to kind of put the nail in the coffin, that was awesome,” Kelly said.
The third period saw Vancouver come with some pressure that was beaten back by dense defense in the neutral zone by Boston.
The Canucks managed few solid chances despite a pair of power plays and a largely uneventful final frame effectively concluded when Marchand scored an empty-net goal.
“When we scored the empty-netter, then it really sunk in,” Recchi said. “I knew this was going to be it for me and I knew we’d won it at that point. What a feeling.”