This one was a long time coming
On the 11th period, they exploded.
Having scored in only two of the previous 10 periods, the Bruins erupted for four goals in a span of 15:36 of last night’s second period, and they liked the feeling so much they added four more before the annihilation of the Vancouver Canucks was complete.
Yup, it was Bruins 8, Canucks 1, and, really now, who was expecting this? The Bruins had scored three goals in the previous three games.
The ever-cautious Claude Julien warned fans not to make too much of all this.
“We won by a big score, but it’s only a win and we’re still down, 2-1,’’ he said. “Confidence-wise, I don’t think there’s any reason for us to think the series has turned around.’’
There were plenty of pleasant developments for the fans to embrace, starting with a rejuvenated power play and more of the penalty-killing brilliance that has marked the Bruins’ effort in the entire playoffs. Any time you have two power-play goals and two shorthanded goals, your special teams get an A-plus. As Coach Bill himself might have said, “Offense, defense, special teams, all three phases of the game . . .’’
But there was a serious negative, that being a first-period hit on right winger Nathan Horton by Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome, a dangerous maneuver that sent Horton to Mass. General and Rome to the locker room with a game misconduct barely five minutes in. Horton has been a big playoff performer, second on the team in both goals and points to David Krejci. Hockey players are notoriously tough, but it would be a pretty big shock if Horton were seen on the ice any time soon.
“We lost a pretty good player,’’ Julien said, when asked if he knew what adjustment he might make to his first line. “We’ll find a solution. We always do.’’
As for the legitimacy of the hit, Julien was calm, but quite firm. Avoiding the word “dirty,’’ or any derivative thereof, he said, “What I would call it is a blindside hit we thought had been taken out of the game. That’s my view and I’m not going to comment more than that.’’
The hit created one of those eerie moments no one ever wants to see. Horton was hit on the blue line, falling backward and hitting his head on the ice. He was stretched out on the “T’’ and “A’’ of the word “STANLEY’’ as he was worked on.
Although the Bruins were unable to take immediate advantage by scoring on the ensuing five-minute interference major, the episode really got the crowd into the game and had the building energized far more than it had been. The Bruins were the aggressors for the remainder of the period, which ended at 0-0.
It did not remain that way for long.
Does someone scoring a goal 11 seconds into a period ring a bell? That’s all it took the Canucks to score the overtime goal that won Game 2, and that’s how long it took for the Bruins to get on the board once the puck was dropped to start Period 2 last night. Vancouver’s Alexander Edler immediately broke his stick and lost the puck, creating a rush by Krejci. The puck wound up on the stick of Andrew Ference, whose gaffe had set the forces in motion to create the winning goal on Saturday night. He fired away from the blue line, beating Roberto Luongo exactly 11 seconds into the period. How cosmic is that?
Not long after, Jeff Tambellini was sent off for hooking. But now the Bruins seem to have a recognizable power play. It sure looked like one, anyway, and it wound up producing a goal when a Mark Recchi pass intended for Rich Peverley found its way into the net, striking Ryan Kesler’s stick along the way. Peverley was mistakenly credited with the goal, but the correction was made in due time.
Neither goal had been a thing of beauty, though they certainly counted. The next goal was an entirely different matter.
This one was a Brad Marchand production from start to finish. First he bounced the puck off the right boards. He retrieved his own pass, elbowing his way past Edler to do so. He accelerated past Kesler, too, and now he was boring in on Luongo. Moving right-to-left, he glided across the ice, waiting, waiting, waiting for the goaltender to commit. Luongo finally went down and Marchand fired it into the right corner. It was as if Rocket Richard had come back to life. No Bruin has had a prettier goal in these playoffs.
Almost forgot. The whole affair was shorthanded. By this time you kinda knew it was going to be a Boston Bruins night.
Through it all, Tim Thomas was once again magnificent, stopping 40 shots and losing his shutout at 13:53 of the final period when he was beaten by Jannik Hansen. (As a crowd-pleasing bonus, he even leveled Henrik Sedin, whom he obviously felt had invaded his precious space.) Hansen’s bit of late-game effrontery made it 5-1 and seemed to enrage the Bruins, who added three more on Luongo, the final three goals coming in the last 2:21, the last by Michael Ryder at 19:29. If there is such a thing as garbage time in hockey, this was it.
One might rightfully ask why Luongo was left in to take this kind of abuse.
“I thought at 4-0, going at the beginning of the third with a power play, we might be able to do something,’’ said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. “That’s why I kept him in. At 5-1, I asked him what he wanted to do. He said, ‘Don’t even think about taking me out,’ so that’s what I did.’’
Five, six, seven, eight, what does it matter? What does matter is the overall M.O., and so much if what transpired on the scoreboard had to do with Boston’s overwhelming edge on special teams. “We’ve been criticized properly for our power play,’’ said Julien. “But I think in this series it’s been pretty good. We’re moving the puck much better. Sure, we’d like to see a few more shots. And our penalty-killing has been excellent, except for the sixth game against Tampa Bay. That has really helped us to survive when our power play has struggled.’’
In the final analysis, the game was a gift to the fans, many of whom have waited for what had to seem like eons to see a Stanley Cup Final victory on home ice. This was the kind of show that creates converts for any sport.
Hate to sound like a coach, but it’s one win, nothing more. But it does mean the place should be rocking tomorrow night. A Boston win then and we do have a proper series.