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Bruins, Thomas hold fort

Canucks control play, but can't dent the net

There was blood on the ice. Blood on his visor. And naturally, blood pooling in Brad Stuart's mouth after he hit the deck to block a second-period Trevor Linden shot, which ricocheted off his face shield and smacked him in the face.

And naturally, Stuart returned to the ice in the third period with seven stitches holding together his upper lip, which covered the choppers he initially thought he had lost.

"At least I've got my two front teeth for Christmas," said Stuart.

It was that kind of grinding, bruising game for the Bruins, who scored a 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks before 12,348 at TD Banknorth Garden last night and swiped 2 points they might not have deserved. With the Canucks applying pressure at every turn for part of the second period and nearly all of the third, the retreating Bruins clogged shooting lanes, recording 15 blocked shots.

Behind them, Tim Thomas stopped all 39 Vancouver shots, claiming his first shutout of the season and serving as the last line of an under-siege defense that bent, sagged, and groaned under the assault -- but never broke.

"As a defenseman or a winger battling against the wall, you feel good about the luxury of exhaustion and winning," said coach Dave Lewis.

In the third period, the Bruins didn't record a single shot. In the last two periods, the Canucks outshot the Bruins, 27-6.

"We D'ed up," said Marc Savard. "Maybe a little too much."

But the Bruins had three things working in their favor:

First, a potent power play that cashed in twice during the first period.

Second, a perfect penalty kill that stuffed six Vancouver power plays and is now 12 for 12 in the last two games.

Third, a goalie who, according to defenseman Jason York, got some extra dessert last night for the big-time, brick-up-the-net performance he turned in.

"Timmy was unbelievable again tonight," said Zdeno Chara, who was whistled with 0.1 seconds remaining for playing the puck with a broken stick. "He held us in the game."

Earlier this season, the Bruins were adept in handing away third-period leads. They coughed up a two-goal third-period advantage against the St. Louis Blues in the fourth game of the season, turning a 2-0 victory into a 3-2 shootout loss. On Nov. 2, the Bruins took a 4-1 lead into the third against the Buffalo Sabres. By the end of the game, the shell-shocked Bruins, who had allowed three third-period goals, lost a 5-4 shootout decision.

Last night, they didn't play their best, as Glen Murray acknowledged. But in contrast to earlier in the season, when they knocked their knees and tucked their tails at the first sign of pressure, the Bruins believed they could win.

"Give us this game early in October. I don't think this happens," said Paul Mara. "But with the confidence this team has now, it's night and day compared to where we were coming from."

In the first period, when they showed the only offensive spark they had all game, the Bruins took advantage of Vancouver's undisciplined play. With Internet phenomenon Rory Fitzpatrick -- the pointless defenseman has been the centerpiece of an online write-in campaign for the All-Star Game -- in the penalty box for hooking, the Bruins scored their first goal.

Savard, standing at the top of the right circle, faked a slapper, throwing off goalie Dany Sabourin (17 saves). Savard pulled a pass down low to Marco Sturm, who spotted Patrice Bergeron open on the other side. Sturm sent a cross-crease pass that Bergeron potted for a backdoor goal at 3:14, his 11th strike of the season.

The Bruins went on a five-on-three power play later in the period, thanks to some ill-timed chirping by Linden, Vancouver's alternate captain. After forward Jan Bulis was whistled for hooking, Linden, from the bench, pounded his stick against the boards and offered his thoughts on the penalty.

Linden was tagged with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a 10-minute misconduct, giving the Bruins a two-minute, five-on-three power play. Twenty seconds after the calls, the Bruins took advantage when Murray, from the top of the left circle, took a feed from Chara and hummed a one-timer past Sabourin.

After that, it was pack-it-in time for the trap-happy Bruins, who saw the Canucks attempt everything to get pucks through. Early on, they got some good scoring chances that Thomas turned aside. Later, they tried fancy backdoor and cross-crease plays that the Boston defense covered. They threw shot after shot on goal and crashed the net, drawing the ire of Thomas, who shoved forward Alexandre Burrows for getting too close during one scrum.

Finally, with pucks being blocked and Thomas making initial stops, the Canucks tried shooting wide in hopes of tips or bounces off the end boards.

None of it worked.

"We got lucky. No question about it," said Murray, who scored his team-leading 18th goal. "The way we played the last two periods, we were very lucky to pull that one out. It's a win -- we'll definitely take the win -- but we can't play like that."

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at

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