Before their rendezvous in the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks didn't know each other well. Now, they know they don't like each other.
What started as contretemps in Game 1 and Game 2 became full-fledged contempt last night in Game 3 at TD Garden, after Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome played hitman and hospitalized Nathan Horton with a questionable first-period check.
Both Bruins coach Claude Julien and Canucks coach Alain Vigneault had plenty of good seats available on their benches at the end of last night's testy contest. While the Bruins elbowed their way into the series, cutting Vancouver's lead to 2-1 with a rousing 8-1 rout, elbow room on the benches was bountiful late in the game. Rome's game misconduct was followed by a total of nine 10-minute misconduct penalties (five on the Bruins, four for Vancouver) in the chippy game, eight in the third period when both the score and emotions got out of hand.
For those left behind, it was a little surreal to see so many vacant seats.
"Yeah, it was," said Brad Marchand, whose sublime shorthanded goal in the second period highlighted a four-goal period that saw the Spoked-Bs turn a scoreless game into a comfortable lead. "At points I was looking beside me and saying, 'Who am I going to be playing with?' It was a good little time to laugh about it, but you don't see it too often."
You also don't often see a Vezina-winning goalie level a Hart Trophy-winning forward with a check, as Tim Thomas did when Henrik Sedin encroached upon the crease with 6:56 elapsed in the third. (Hey, at least Thomas stayed inside the blue paint for the complaining Canucks) You also don't often see a Cup Final contest where there are 27 penalties (15 on the locals) and 145 penalty minutes doled out.
"I think it's just the nature of playoff hockey that as the series goes on the rivalry grows and grows and that animosity grows," said Canucks forward Manny Malhotra.
Down 2-0 in the series after a pair of near-misses in Vancouver, the Bruins quadrupled their goal production from the first two games to catapult themselves right back into legitimate contention for Lord Stanley's cherished chalice. With a four-goal lead, they used the third to exact a bit of revenge for a borderline-at-best blow delivered by Rome.
Just 5:07 into the game, Rome laid out Horton with a scary hit that had the Bruins winger taken off on a stretcher and taken to Massachusetts General Hospital.
Horton, coming down the middle of the ice towards the Vancouver zone, had passed the puck to Milan Lucic on the left wing and had his head turned. The puck was long gone when Rome left his feet and leveled the unsuspecting Horton with a shoulder to the head. Horton's head bounced off the TD Garden ice, and his right hand was frozen motionless in the air for a few seconds, usually a tell-tale sign of someone who has lost consciousness.
The NHL's general managers meet here on Wednesday, and you can bet Rome's hit will be a topic of discussion. Rome was whistled for interference, a five-minute major and was tossed from the game.
That set the tone for a game where the goals, hits, and enmity flowed freely.
Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference and Canucks forward Daniel Sedin tangled at 6:59 of the third for matching misconducts. Exactly 59 seconds later Shawn Thornton was sent to the showers after he got menacing with Ryan Kesler.
With 8:44 left Milan Lucic got into it with Alex Burrows behind the net and taunted Burrows, who bit the hand of Patrice Bergeron in Game 1, by jamming a finger in Burrows' face to see if he was in the mood for more finger food. It should be noted that Julien condemned this sophomoric behavior, and Lucic said he got chewed out by the coach.
"It's definitely a classless move," said Lucic, who is the only one with Vancouver roots owning up to his actions in this series.
Dennis Seidenberg and Kesler, who actually knocked in the Bruins' second goal, a power play strike credited to Mark Recchi, were both given the heave-ho at 11:16 of the third after they discarded their gloves and attempted -- that's the key word -- to fight.
"Obviously, when it's 4-0, 5-0 we got a little carried away," said Recchi, who after going 11 playoff games without a goal has three in his last two, including a pair last night. "But we play our best hockey when we play on the edge."
The Bruins may have gone over the edge last night, but if that's what it takes to avoid being on the brink of elimination so be it. They play their best when they're angry and agitated.
Actually, the most significant damage the Bruins inflicted on the Canucks during a rough and tumble night at the rink could be psychological. They squeezed off Vancouver's potent power play (0 for 8), which is now just 1 for 16 in the series, and potted a pair of short-handed goals. Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo had his fragile psyche slashed, allowing all eight goals, including a Daniel Paille's short-handed strike in the third period that went right through his catching glove.
Get used to what you saw last night. It's not going to get much tamer the rest of the way, starting with Game 4 tomorrow night. Loathing is now as much a part of this series as line changes and faceoffs.
"We're fighting for something we've wanted our whole lives," said Marchand. "It's going to be a battle every game. It's going to look like that, and I think it's going to just get chippier as the series goes on."
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.