For a while, it looked like the Vancouver Canucks had the Boston Bruins right where they wanted them.
Scoreless after a period in which they killed off a five-minute interference major to Aaron Rome for sidelining Bruins forward Nathan Horton with a hit to the head that will likely warrant a suspension, the Canucks survived an expected early push from the Bruins and were ready to push back Monday.
Instead, they got pushed aside and the Stanley Cup parade committee has adjourned planning meetings until further notice.
The Bruins not only exploded for four second-period goals en route to a convincing 8-1 triumph, the game raised obvious questions as the Canucks saw their best-of-seven series lead cut to 2-1.
How bad is Ryan Kesler’s left groin? The centre couldn’t hold off Bruins forward Brad Marchand as he drove wide for an unassisted, short-handed effort.
How can the Canucks expect to be first on the puck when they were second best in so many puck battles? Where was that vaunted third-period push? The Canucks lead the playoffs with 22 goals in the final frame, but were blanked until Jannik Hansen scored with less than seven minutes remaining to spoil a Tim Thomas bid for his third shutout of these playoffs.
Daunting questions and the Canucks have to find some answers because frustration is setting in. Henrik Sedin even took a swing at Zdeno Chara as the Bruins extended their playoff win streak on home ice to four games.
Another question is about the league’s reaction to the devastating first-period hit by Rome that knocked Horton — Boston’s second-leading playoff scorer — out of the game.
After the Bruins’ winger passed the puck at the Canucks blue-line and has his head down, Rome stepped up and caught him with a shoulder to the chin and his elbow rode also up on the play at 5:07. Horton appeared lose consciousness and laid motionless on the ice until taken off on a stretcher. He was transported to hospital and had movement in all his extremities.
“There wasn’t a lot of talk (in the locker-room), it was more of ’Let’s make sure we do this for Horty,”’ Mark Recchi said of the Bruins’ reaction to the hit.
“Horty’s been a great teammate all year, and let’s get this win for him tonight.”
Rome was assessed a five-minute interference major and game misconduct and could find himself facing a suspension after Mike Murphy reviews the play.
His exit would likely bring Keith Ballard back into the Vancouver lineup for Game 4 on Wednesday
“I think what I would call it is it was a blindside hit that we’ve talked about taking out of the game,” Julien said. “He (Horton) made the pass. It was late. He came from the blindside. Whether it’s through the motion of the hit, it appeared he left his feet a little bit.”
Canucks’ head coach Alain Vigneault called the injury to Horton was unfortunate, but added that he didn’t think it was the type of hit the NHL wants to legislate out of the game.
“We’ll let the league deal with that, but it was a head-on hit, a player looking at his pass, it was a little bit late,” Vigneault said.
Recchi scored twice and Bonavista native Michael Ryder had a goal and two assists for Boston. Andrew Ference, Marchand, David Krejci, Dan Paille and Chris Kelly also had goals for Boston.
Roberto Luongo, who faced 38 shots gave up all eight of Noston’s goals. At the other end, Thomas made 40 saves for the Bruins.
Prior to the game, there some strange chatter that Thomas should change his style to change the fortunes of the Bruins. The Vezina Trophy finalist is far from conventional in his adventures outside the crease — throwing body parts at will to stop pucks — but a second-period sequence in which he made three spectacular saves not only swung momentum, it may have also given the Bruins the goaltending advantage which is so critical in any series.
“There wasn’t a lot of talk (in the locker-room), it was more of ’Let’s make sure we do this for Horty. Horty’s been a great teammate all year, and let’s get this win for him tonight.” - Mark Recchi
Thomas stopped a Kesler deflection of an Alex Edler power-play point shot in the sequence, a Raffi Torres re-direct and thwarted Manny Malhotra, who drove the net so hard that the centre bowled over the stopper trying to ram a puck between his pads.
Once the score was settled on the scoreboard, the Bruins settled some scores in the third period. Milan Lucic motioned to Alex Burrows with his fingers in an endboards scrum — reminding Burrows of the alleged biting incident from Game 1.
Julien wasn’t impressed with Lucic’s actions.
“I said this morning (to the media) I wouldn’t accept it on our team,” he said. “It happened a couple of times tonight. They’ve been told that I don’t want any of that stuff.
“You (have) to live by your words. It was disappointing for me to see that happen after what I said this morning. But part of it is my fault for not bringing it up to the guys.”
Kesler and Dennis Seidenberg later wrestled at centre ice. But that was it. The Bruins did the damage where it mattered — on the scoreboard.
The break the Bruins were looking for came early in the second period. Edler tried to move the puck with a broken stick and it started a sequence that ended with a Ference point shot appearing to deflect off the stick of Krejci, which was a good omen. The Bruins were 8-1 in the post-season when scoring first.
More importantly, the Bruins were working hard enough to create their own breaks but got another when Kesler dove to stop a Recchi cross-ice, power-play feed to Rich Peverley. The effort deflect off the stick of the Canucks’ centre and between Luongo’s pads. If that wasn’t deflating enough, Kesler then simply couldn’t hold off Marchand after Henrik Sedin coughed up the puck on the power play. The Bruins winger went wide and waited for Luongo to go down and roofed the puck to make it 3-0.
If the Canucks needed more proof the Bruins are back in the series in a big way, their first line had such a dominant even-strength shift in the second period that it brought the crowd to its feet. And it ended with Krejci finally scoring in this series when he buried a Ryder rebound. Daniel Paille then waltzed around Jeff Tambellini and Luongo only got a piece of his wrister. Recchi, Chris Kelly and Ryder then closed scoring to open debate about where this series is now headed.
Ryder has six goals and eight assists in 20 playoff games this spring.
The eight goals scored by Boston Monday ties a franchise record for most allowed in a post-season game.
The first Stanley Cup final game played in Boston since 1990 was arguably the biggest the team had faced since last winning a championship in 1972. The Bruins knew falling behind 3-0 in the series would virtually ensure a quick end to their title aspirations.
Fans inside TD Garden waved yellow towels with the word “Believe” printed across them and welcomed the Bruins home with an ear-splitting ovation that lasted throughout the pre-game introductions, national anthem and opening faceoff.
A number of fans from British Columbia made the 5,000-kilometre trip to Boston — including The Green Men, who sat about 15 rows behind the visiting goal (see story page C2).
Meanwhile, a full house watched on the scoreboard back at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
Shawn Thornton was inserted in Boston’s lineup in place of rookie Tyler Seguin and made his presence felt with an early hit on Burrows, the Canucks agitator who is considered Public Enemy No. 1 here after biting Patrice Bergeron’s finger in Game 1.
With files from the Canadian Press