By René Reyes/DFP Staff
As is the case with some highly anticipated, “can’t-miss” regular-season games, they barely live up to all the hype and expectations.
But the rematch of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins (26-11-1) and Vancouver Canucks (26-13-3) on Saturday didn’t disappoint.
For diehard and casual hockey fans alike, this matinee at TD Garden had everything: seven goals, 75 shots, 30 penalties, 107 penalty minutes, countless after-the-whistle altercations, two Bruins players ejected and a whole lot of bad blood linking these bitter rivals.
Labeled as a talented but soft team and star forwards Henrik and Daniel Sedin referred to as the “Sedin Sisters” in the wake of their postseason showing, the Canucks exacted some revenge on the Bruins for their disheartening loss in last June’s finals. They scored four power-play goals on 11 opportunities to eke out an emotionally charged 4-3 win before a relentless Boston crowd.
“Obviously, it’s a big win,” said Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa. “We wanted to win the game going in. Not that we have anything to prove, but we’d like to have a little bit of success in this building and put to rest some of the critics. I think we did that. We had a pretty complete effort. Everybody chipped in, in different areas and here we are victorious. No Stanley Cup, but we still won the game.”
The fireworks exploded sooner rather than later – 3:54 into the contest, to be exact – in an affair that featured, in the postgame words of B’s coach Claude Julien, “teams that don’t like each other.”
Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows – the main perpetrator of BiteGate against the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron in Game 1 of last year’s playoffs – slashed center Daniel Paille on the skate as he was coming off the ice, prompting B’s enforcer Shawn Thornton to retaliate by slashing Burrows, too.
Thornton said afterward that Burrows then poked him in the throat with his stick. Mayhem broke loose immediately after that. Within seconds of the Thornton-Burrows exchange in front of the Vancouver bench, five Canucks jumped on Thornton in wrestling fashion. Captain Zdeno Chara and several other Bruins came to their teammate’s defense, pulling players out of the Thornton pileup.
“I’m a big boy. I can handle myself,” Thornton said of the dustup. “I’m not worried about that. I was more upset with the spear to the throat. I don’t lose my cool for no reason. I see myself as a pretty honest player. But I’m not going to let someone spear me in the throat. I’m also a man, so I stand up for myself.”
Nine different players drew penalties for the scrum, including Bruins left winger Milan Lucic, who was given a roughing minor and a game-misconduct for leaving the bench to join in the fight. Julien said Lucic’s line change was legal, so his team’s fourth-leading points scorer had no right to be kicked out of the game since he had replaced Paille on the ice for the next shift.
“I’m not blaming them,” Julien said of the referees. “They’re in the middle of a scrum there, but Looch was on the ice already. It wasn’t an illegal change. He didn’t come off the bench. There are no issues there in my mind. It’s clear. What’s unfortunate is that we lost a pretty good player early in the game, and that’s what is more disappointing.
“It’s a guy looking forward to playing this game. He’s from Vancouver, and he gets tossed out, but he actually didn’t do anything wrong.”
Inexplicably so, the Canucks were awarded with a 5-on-3 following the altercation, and the NHL’s No. 1 power-play unit – boasting a 23.6 conversion rate entering Saturday’s showdown – struck when the iron was hot. Vancouver center Ryan Kesler buried a rebound past B’s goalie Tim Thomas (32 saves) at 5:41 to give the Canucks a 1-0 edge.
The Bruins would respond in the same frame, though. In a transition from the defensive zone to the offensive end, center Tyler Seguin zipped a beautifully timed cross-ice pass to left winger Brad Marchand, who snuck his backhander underneath the left pad of Canucks goalie Corey Schneider (36 saves) to knot the tilt at one apiece with 5:03 remaining in the first period.
Riding the energy from a thrilling first period into the second, the Bruins had appeared to shift the momentum in their favor.
Just 23 seconds in, Paille was tripped up on a mini-breakaway and awarded with a penalty shot. Not until he was inches away from Schneider did Paille fire a shot intended for the top right corner, but Vancouver’s backup goaltender, starting in place of Roberto Luongo, robbed Paille with a glove save.
Yet, at the 7:12 mark of the second period, Rich Peverly tallied his seventh goal of the season on a wrist shot from the left circle that put the B’s ahead, 2-1.
After Seguin was sent to the sin bin at 14:47 for tripping, the Canucks capitalized on the man advantage only 34 seconds later. Screening Thomas from his position in the slot, Burrows tipped home a Cody Hodgson shot to tie the game at 2-2.
The biggest moment of the matchup came when Marchand was tossed with 1:13 left in the middle session for clipping Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo. Along the right boards in the Canucks’ offensive zone, Marchand saw Salo coming in his direction, bent down and delivered a low hit to Salo’s knees. The ensuing call was a five-minute major and a game-misconduct, which could result in a possible suspension for Marchand by the league.
The Canucks scored twice during the five-minute major to seize a commanding 4-2 advantage. First, Henrik Sedin redirected Alex Edler’s slap shot into the back of the net at 19:47 of the second. Then, Hodgson capped off Vancouver’s power-play scoring with a slapper from the right circle that sizzled by Thomas’ left shoulder at the 1:09 mark of the third period.
“They obviously play hard, but they tend to do stupid things,” Bieksa said of the Bruins. “The Marchand hit was a pretty stupid thing, and I’m sure he’ll be getting a phone call for that one. There is no reason for that. But we made them pay for that. We got to score two goals on that power play and that’s the game. He’s got to live with that.”
Center David Krejci answered back 42 seconds later to bring the Bruins within one when he backhanded the puck past Schneider, staying with the play despite the netminder’s initial pad save on Krejci’s first shot off a Joe Corvo slap shot.
A late offensive flurry by the Bruins with an extra skater on the ice and a 6-on-4 advantage due to a delay of game penalty on Dan Hamhuis in the waning seconds couldn’t provide them with the equalizer.
On this afternoon, the Bruins’ 0-for-7 showing on their own man advantage, along with the Canucks’ four power-play goals, did them in.
“I thought we were ready to play, and when we played five-on-five, we were a good team,” Julien said. “So we gave them four power-play goals, and our power play didn’t score. It doesn’t matter what you ask me. I don’t think we’re going to point the finger at the other team because they didn’t do anything wrong. They played the game the way they feel they have to play it.
“They scored some power-play goals. They did the right things, and we didn’t do enough to win the hockey game. Let’s be man enough to admit it and move on.”