|The Bruins’ Milan Lucic appears to need a fallback plan after a collision with the Canucks’ Aaron Rome in the first period. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)|
Opponents were quite happy with this ending
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Well, yes, it did take a while to get the job done, but the Vancouver Canucks seemed to think the outcome was quite logical.
“I think the last half we took over the game,’’ said Daniel Sedin. “It’s been like that throughout the whole playoffs. We wear the other team down.’’
“We find ways to win,’’ agreed Kevin Bieksa. “We stick with it to the end.’’
In this case it happened to be 18.5 seconds before the end. That’s when Raffi Torres, an itinerant winger who had bounced into the Canucks’ life after stints with the Islanders, Oilers, Blue Jackets, and Sabres, buried a feed from Jannik Hansen on a play originated by a hustling Ryan Kesler to give Vancouver a 1-0 victory in the opening game of the Stanley Cup finals.
It was a sudden and brutal ending for the Bruins, who received yet another four-star performance from Tim Thomas in goal, but who were frustrated by Roberto Luongo at the other end of the ice. None of this qualifies as new news, you know?
“Both goalies were unreal,’’ declared the Canucks’ Maxim Lapierre. “It’s a really good goalie matchup.’’
“Goals were tough to come by,’’ said Henrik Sedin. “That’s the way it’s going to be. If you let them have a goal, it’s going to be tough to come back.’’
It may have been zip-zip until the final 18.5 seconds, but it felt more like a 4-4 game to the principals. It’s not as if people weren’t trying to score.
“I thought there was a lot of offense,’’ said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “It might have been nothing-nothing until the last 30 seconds, but it was up and down, up and down. Both teams had to fight for every inch. Boston is a big, physical intense team.’’
There was the requisite amount of extracurricular activity, although the chippiness stopped short of actual fighting. But this seemed to be far more of a concern to the local postgame inquisitors than it was to the Canucks, who shrugged it all off.
“There’s no hate,’’ said Lapierre, a feisty fellow who spends his share of the time in the penalty box. “It’s just guys in the Stanley Cup finals. Everyone wants to win so badly.’’
“We expect that from the Bruins,’’ chimed in Bieksa. “That’s their persona. We might not drop the gloves as much as they do, but we win our one-on-one battles.’’
The winning goal was provided by two members of the Vancouver third line, and that seemed to resonate in the locker room. “Raffi and Jannik work so hard,’’ Lapierre said. “Raffi really deserves that goal.’’
The 29-year old Torres was a free agent signee of general manager Mike Gillis. During the season he collected 14 goals and 29 points, but that’s not exactly why they got him. More to the point were the 134 hits, second on the team. He also led the team with 78 penalty minutes. Starting to get the picture?
“Like I said all along, he was brought in here because he was an emotional, physical player,’’ Vigneault said. “He comes to play. Sometimes he’s a little out of the box, but that’s OK.’’
You might expect to be done in by a Sedin or a Kesler or an Alex Burrows, not a Torres. Then again, this is Stanley Cup play, is it not? Much like the World Series, the Stanley Cup often provides us with unlikely stars.
Anyway, Vigneault couldn’t stop bubbling about the play of his third line.
“They were strong,’’ he said. “They played the way we want them to play. Fast. North-south. They took the puck to the net. They had some Grade A scoring chances.’’
The Canucks weren’t bragging. They did generate more late scoring chances than the Bruins. And they came oh so close to scoring earlier in the period when a blast from defenseman Alexander Edler hit the crossbar over Thomas’s right shoulder. There was a definite sense that it was only a matter of time before they would get one, and when they did finally score it was on a breakout that left Thomas little chance, Torres firing one low and hard to the goalie’s right to a reasonably open net.
After all the talk about penalties and power plays and the huge advantage everyone had conceded to the home team in that regard, each team came up empty at 0 for 6. The best chance belonged to the Bruins, who received a bonus when Daniel Sedin was assessed a double minor for a high-sticking infraction and the Bruins actually mounted something that looked like a real, live NHL power play.
The only problem was they were trying to score against a real, live top-quality goalie who was at the top of his game. Luongo stoned them repeatedly.
That was, by far, their best-looking power play of the night. They would even have a 5-on-3 opportunity. Don’t ask.
But at least their own penalty killing was ready for prime time. Any time you hold the Canucks scoreless in six power-play chances you have accomplished something.
While there might not be any more 1-0 games, no one is looking for any shootouts. The Canucks saw this game as following the 2011 Stanley Cup finals blueprint.
“It’s what everyone expected,’’ Bieksa said. “It’s probably what’s going to happen the whole series. You can see why both goalies are up for the Vezina.’’
He didn’t add that the Canucks think they can handle anything the Bruins throw at them. He didn’t have to. It was in his tone and in his eyes. These guys just assume they’re going to win.
Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.