OT heartbreaker for Bruins
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — They can’t get back to the Garden fast enough. They need open lanes on the Tobin and Zakim. They need their loyalists in spoked-B sweaters and Rene Rancourt’s double fist-pump after the anthem. They need Bobby Orr to give them a Herb Brooks “This is your time’’ pep talk before Game 3.
I mean, really? It’s taken the Bruins 21 years to get back to the Stanley Cup Final. Is it supposed to be this painful? Are the new Bruins just the old Red Sox on skates? How much can fans take?
The Bruins lost Game 2 to the Vancouver Canucks last night when Alex Burrows — the guy who bit Patrice Bergeron in Game 1 and should have been suspended — scored just 11 seconds after the puck was dropped in overtime. The 3-2 loss came three days after an excruciating Game 1 defeat in which the only goal was scored with 18.5 seconds left on the clock.
“We have to regroup,’’ said Bruins winger Milan Lucic, who scored a goal. “We’re going home and we’ve got to seize the moment. Right now, it [stinks] and it hurts. We have to win a game to get us back in the series.’’
The Bruins led, 2-1, with 10:23 left in regulation when Daniel Sedin tied it for the Canucks.
Bergeron won the overtime face-off, but Andrew Ference turned the puck over in the neutral zone and the annoying Burrows (two goals and an assist) was off to the races, streaking down the left lane. He drew Tim Thomas way out of the net, faked a shot, then whooshed behind the goal and tucked it into a wide-open net as Thomas went in the other direction toward the Tim Horton ad on the boards.
“I was aggressive,’’ said Thomas. “I was able to stay with him. But he was able to go around the net. It’s not the way I envisioned it going.’’
History is not the Bruins’ friend at this hour. Winning a Stanley Cup after trailing, two games to none, is not impossible, but of the 46 teams who’ve dug this hole, only four have recovered to win the championship. The Bruins, meanwhile, haven’t won a Cup since 1972 and are mired in a championship drought that conjures memories of the local nine. Dating to 1978, the Bruins have lost 12 of their last 13 games in this celebrated event. Boston is 5-22 in Cup Final games since Chief Johnny Bucyk last hoisted the chalice in ’72.
On the other hand, there is evidence that these Bruins have true grit. Prior to this spring, no Bruins team ever came back from a two-games-to-none deficit to win a series (28 tried and failed), but the 2010-11 Bruins got it done after losing the first two games against the hated Montreal Canadiens. The Sons of Claude Julien also lost their first game of the conference finals against Tampa Bay, then recovered to win the series in seven.
“We’re a better team than we’ve shown,’’ said Julien. “We’re resilient. We’ve been able to bounce back before. We were down, 2-0, to Montreal and in some ways that was even worse because we lost at home. We’ve been through it. We didn’t come here to roll over.’’
The Canucks are the tourney’s top seed for a reason. They scored more goals, and gave up fewer goals, than any team this season. They have the Olympic gold-medal goalie (Roberto Luongo) and sports’ best identical siblings since the Coors Twins. They are well-positioned to win their first Cup.
Vancouver scored first last night. With Zdeno Chara in the penalty box (getting taunted by the Green Guys, who say they are coming to Boston), Burrows potted a shot in the 13th minute of play. Ference’s failure to clear led to the scoring chance, and it was a soft goal, slipping under Thomas’s arm.
The second period was Boston’s best of the series. Lucic broke the scoreless drought when he gathered the rebound on a Johnny Boychuk slapper and slipped it past Luongo’s right side. Mark Recchi gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead when he deflected a Chara shot into the net on a . . . power play. It was Boston’s first lead in 91:35 of the Stanley Cup Final.
It was a great period for the Bruins, releasing a game and a half of frustration. Thomas made a lot of good saves, the power play converted, and suddenly if felt like the Bruins could win the series.
Boston’s lead lasted only 18:02. Midway through the third, after a television timeout, Sedin took a dish from Burrows and buried it behind Thomas. Do not underestimate the impact of the phony pauses. Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault wants his high-flying Swedes on the ice as much as possible, and the Cup Final format helps. Chara and Dennis Seidenberg could only keep them off the scoreboard for so long.
Julien chalked up the loss to “decision-making and puck management.’’ That’s what he thinks the Bruins need to do better.
So now the series comes home to the Hub of Hockey. It’s an article of faith that the New Garden can never be as loud at the old barn that was destroyed in the name of luxury boxes and air conditioning in the mid-1990s. Memory measurement is imprecise science, but you better believe it’s going to be loud tomorrow. Can’t wait to see how they treat the Green Guys.
“Our fans are going to be into it,’’ said Lucic. “I know they’re not going to give up on us. We came back against Montreal and Tampa and hopefully we can use that to our advantage.’’
It will be the first Cup Final game in the history of the New Garden, the latest (and priciest) Bruins game of all time.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.