Back home, Bruins scorch the ice
Offensive outburst follows hit on Horton
Frustration was building. The Bruins had suffered a couple of walkoff losses in Vancouver. The Canucks were chewing on Bruin paws and literally laughing in the faces of men wearing spoked-B sweaters.
But the Bruins roared back last night, ’70s style, putting an 8-1 beatdown on the haughty Canucks, smothering talk of a sweep and closing the gap to 2-1 in this Stanley Cup Final.
Boston’s first home Stanley Cup Final game in 21 years was at once emotional, exhilarating, scary, ugly, and uplifting. There were 145 penalty minutes, multiple taunts, one game misconduct, one fight, and one player removed via stretcher (Bruins winger Nathan Horton).
It was a night of payback for the Bruins. They avenged the biting of Patrice Bergeron (Game 1), the taunting of Bergeron (Game 2), and the headhunting by Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome (Game 3). The result was eight goals, blades of glory, and renewed hope to bring the Stanley Cup to Boston for the first time in 39 years.
“I think guys did a good job finding that edge,’’ said Shawn Thornton, a veteran enforcer who was pulled out of mothballs to lead the way.
So now it’s Game On for hockey’s holy grail. The Bruins and Canucks play again here tomorrow, then double-back across the continent to resume their quest for the chalice Friday night. Last night’s mauling of the Canucks is certain to embolden the Bruins and their frothy fans.
“We got a little carried away, but we play our best hockey on the edge,’’ said 43-year old Mark Recchi, who scored the Bruins’ second and sixth goals. “I knew we would respond. We have all year in situations like this.’’
Before this year, the Bruins were 0-28 in series in which they trailed, 0-2. But Claude Julien’s guys recovered from an 0-2 deficit against the hated Canadiens in Round 1, then bounced back from a Game 1 loss in the conference finals against Tampa Bay. They’ve won a pair of Game 7s. They’re playing in June for the first time in their 87-year history. And they just dominated the alleged best team in hockey. Why not win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972?
The oft-mocked, intransigent Julien made a key switch last night when he reinserted Thornton into the mix. It was a message that the Bruins would no longer be bullied by the talented/annoying skaters from British Columbia. Enough of the taunts.
There was a lot of pregame noise about the despicable Game 2 actions of Canucks center Max Lapierre, who taunted Bergeron, sticking his fingers in the face of the Bruins star. Lapierre refused to comment about it after Vancouver’s morning skate, but when Julien was asked about Lapierre, the Bruins coach said, “If it’s acceptable for them, then so be it. Certainly wouldn’t be acceptable on our end of it. The NHL rules on something. They decide to make a mockery of it, that’s totally up to them. We can’t waste our time on that kind of stuff.’’
Little did Julien know that before the night was through, two of his guys would do exactly what Lapierre did. Recchi stuck his fingers into the face of Lapierre and Milan Lucic taunted biter Alex Burrows in the third.
Julien was not happy.
“It was disappointing for me to see that happen after what I said this morning,’’ he said. “But part of it is my fault for not bringing it up to the guys. They did it. Emotions got the better of them. I’m going to stand here and say I’m not accepting it.’’
“I got in trouble for that,’’ admitted Recchi. “Coach gave me heck for that. But it’s an emotional game. There was a little bit of frustration on our part.’’
The lowlight of the night was the horrific sight of Horton, on his back after a dirty hit from Rome. A career minor league journeyman, Rome laid out Horton with a shoulder to the jaw after Horton passed to Lucic. Rome has two goals in 131 regular-season NHL games. He was issued a five-minute major (interference) and a game misconduct. Horton had his feet taped together, was put in a neck brace, and left the ice on a stretcher, bound for Massachusetts General Hospital.
“That’s the [expletive] we’ve got to get out of the game,’’ said Thornton. “I don’t think that’s warranted. When you see that happen to a guy like Nathan, obviously you want to bring a bit more for him.’’
“It was a dirty hit,’’ said Julien. “I think what I would call it is it was a blindside hit.’’
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said, “The hit seemed to be a little bit late,’’ then added, “I don’t think that’s a hit the league is trying to take out of the game.’’
There’s a whopper for you.
It certainly inspired the Bruins. After scoring only three goals in their previous three games, they erupted for four in the second period and four more in the jailbreak third. Vigneault gave beleaguered goalie Roberto Luongo a chance to come out after five, but the Olympic gold medalist preferred to stay in the game and take his beating.
Things got out of hand in the third and Bruins fans loved it when Lucic taunted Burrows. Dennis Seidenberg got into a dust-up with Ryan Kesler and both left for good after the scrum.
Another late highlight was the sight of Bruins goalie Tim Thomas pancaking Henrik Sedin in front of the paint.
“That’s what I decided to do to keep the puck out of the net,’’ deadpanned Thomas.
Wow. What a night. Sweet revenge for the Black and Gold.
After two days of fear and loathing on the Cup trail, there is unbridled hope here in the Hub of Hockey once again. This isn’t going to be as easy as the Canucks hoped. These Bruins have reinforced the crazy notion that they can win their first Stanley Cup since ’72.
Game 4 is tomorrow night and folks are already bellying up to the bar at The Four’s and lining up outside the Garden entrance. The series is just getting started and the Bruins have all the momentum.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.