Raffi Torres scored with 18.5 seconds left in the third period to give the Vancouver Canucks a 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins Wednesday in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final.
Torres took a pass from Jannik Hansen and beat Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas on the stick side. His third goal of the playoffs brought a tremendous roar from the crowd at Rogers Arena.
“It’s obviously exciting to score with 18 seconds left but saying that we’ve done a good job of forgetting about the past and moving on to the next game,” said Canuck forward Ryan Kesler, who started the play. “We know the next game’s going to be even bigger.”
Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo made 36 saves and opened a series with a shutout for the third time these playoffs.
“I thought we were going to play all night the way it was going,” Luongo said. “It was an exciting way to start the series. It was such a close game. It could’ve gone either way, a flip of the coin.”
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series will be played Saturday at Rogers Arena.
Thomas had looked like a spinning top in the third period.
In the first minute Alex Burrows deflected a puck that Thomas stopped. Thomas stoned Jannik Hansen on a breakaway, then calmly put his glove on the puck as it lay in front of the net. Later, he got his body in front of a Maxim Lapierre deflection.
“You’ve got two of the best goaltenders in the league,” Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said. “Obviously scoring is going to be a challenge for both teams.”
Thomas also got lucky when an Alex Edler wrist shot from the slot got behind him but hit the crossbar.
“He played unbelievable. You can’t say much more about Tim,” Bruins defenceman Johnny Boychuk said. “We need him to play like that.”
Canuck Mason Raymond was left shaking his head in the second period when he sent a deflection just wide of the open net.
Thomas ended the night with 33 saves.
Luongo’s best save came in the first period when he stopped Boston forward Milan Lucic on a rebound
It’s been 17 years since the Canucks appeared in a Stanley Cup final. Anticipation for the game had reached a boiling point by the time the puck finally dropped. The same excitement rippled through the city that was felt prior to the gold medal game at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Fuelled by a loud, towel-waving sellout crowd of 18,860 the Canucks stormed the Bruins’ net early in the first period.
Thomas had to look sharp in moving across the crease in front of a Daniel Sedin shot. On the next shift, Thomas reacted to block a Kesler tip.
“It’s obviously exciting to score with 18 seconds left but saying that we’ve done a good job of forgetting about the past and moving on to the next game. We know the next game’s going to be even bigger.” - Canuck forward Ryan Kesler
Canadian actor Michael J. Fox, who was born in Burnaby, B.C., attended the game. NBA star Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks appeared on the big screen to give a shout out to Canuck defenceman Christian Ehrhoff, a fellow German. The Green Men were in their seats by the opposition penalty box.
There was no scoring after 40 minutes but the game had a nasty edge.
Boston defenceman Andrew Ference hacked Henrik Sedin to the ice with a cross check in the second period after the whistle had blown. Torres gave Boston’s Chris Kelly a punch in the face. Daniel Sedin backed into Thomas, bowling the Bruins’ goaltender over.
None of the plays drew a penalty.
“We knew this was the way they were going to play,” Henrik Sedin said. “We’re going to have to battle for every inch we get. I thought we did a good job tonight. If we play them 5-on-5 I think we have a better chance.”
Canuck defenceman Dan Hamhuis sent the big Lucic cartwheeling through the air with a hip check. The Bruins’ David Krejci took exception and cross-check Hamhuis while he was on the ice.
Hamhuis went to the Canuck dressing room and didn’t return. There was no word on his status.
The first period ended in a scrum.
The scrappy Burrows and Boston’s Patrice Bergeron exchanged shoves behind the Bruins net. An angry Bergeron waved his finger at the officials and replays seemed to indicate Burrows bit him.
“Oh yeah, he did. He cut me a little bit on my finger,” Bergeron said. “But I’m not going to be here complaining about it. I’ll let the league do their job, but he sure did.”
At the same time big Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara was dealing with both Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa.
“When two teams don’t know each other that well, then they’re facing each other ... obviously the build-up to this final, there’s going to be some strong emotions out there,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “Both teams obviously reacted to that.”
The Bruins were unable to take advantage of several power plays.
Boston had an early four-minute advance when Daniel Sedin was called for high-sticking. The Bruins parked the six-foot-nine Chara in front of the Vancouver net, but couldn’t beat Luongo.
The Bruins also failed to take advantage of a 1:33 two-man advantage early in the second period. Veteran Mark Recchi, seeking his third Stanley Cup, had the best scoring chance. He hit the outside of the post with Luongo beat.