Another Garden party
With momentum on their side, Bruins get even
Seen a black bear wandering in your neighborhood? Anything’s possible in this wacky New England spring of 2011 and this might be the Year of the Bruin.
It’s 90 degrees outside and the big boys are still playing hockey indoors, and last night the Bruins again routed the Vancouver Canucks, 4-0, to square their Stanley Cup Final joust at two games each. The series resumes tomorrow night on the other side of the continent. Game 6 will be Monday in the Causeway Street cauldron as the Bruins attempt to win their first Stanley Cup since Bobby Orr ruled in 1972.
Wouldn’t the Cup make a nice hood ornament for a Duck Boat?
Can ice hockey get any hotter?
This is how it felt around Foxborough in 2001 and around Fenway in 2004. This is how it felt when the Celtics routed and shocked the Lakers in the sixth game in 2008. The Bruins are suddenly dominating their favored foes and have the Cup well within their grasp. The Bruins outscored Vancouver 12-1 in two games here this week.
We should probably remind ourselves that the home team has won every game of this series and two of the next three games will be played at Rogers Arena in British Columbia. But it’s just hard to imagine the sieve goalie Roberto Luongo and the Canucks getting up off the mat after their abject humiliation in Games 3 and 4.
Just like in Game 3, the Bruins delighted their loyal throng with goals, defense, and a couple of dust-ups at the finish. Tim Thomas, who has emerged as the central figure of the playoffs, earned his third shutout and had a throw-down with the annoying Alex Burrows in the closing seconds.
The ever-standing sellout crowd absolutely loved it.
“Our crowd has been phenomenal, especially in these playoffs,’’ said Thomas after recording the B’s first Stanley Cup Final shutout since Gerry Cheevers blanked Montreal in 1978. “Playing at home in these playoffs has been a big advantage for us.’’
Last night’s pregame highlight was the sight of Orr, wearing his No. 4 sweater, hoisting a Nathan Horton flag while standing in the crowd by the Zamboni entrance. Now that the Orr card has been played it can only be Milt Schmidt or Johnny Bucyk for Game 6. Chief Bucyk was the man holding the Cup aloft when the B’s last won it at Madison Square Garden during the Nixon administration.
There was no shortage of emotion. Boston fans had barely recovered from Monday’s wild and woolly 8-1 win, the second greatest beatdown in the history of the Cup Final. The loss of Horton (concussion) and subsequent suspension of Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome amplified the electricity.
Boston took a 1-0 lead on a beautiful breakaway goal (through the five-hole) by Rich Peverley off a nifty feed from David Krejci at 11:59. Peverley was playing on the top line in place of Horton (alternating with Michael Ryder) and Claude Julien gets high marks for the switch.
The Bruins made it 2-0 midway through the second when Ryder took a cross-ice pass from Tyler Seguin, broke down the left wing, and flipped a knuckleball wrist shot past Luongo.
A couple of minutes later, Patrice Bergeron chipped the puck out front where Brad Marchand flipped home a pretty backhand over Luongo’s left shoulder.
The beleaguered Vancouver goalie was finally lifted after Peverley kicked home a table hockey pass from Milan Lucic with 16:21 left in the third. Canucks coach Alain Vigneault decided Luongo had suffered enough and the gold-medal winner was replaced by ex-Boston College standout and Marblehead native Cory Schneider. Schneider must have felt like he was playing for Northeastern in the Beanpot consolation game.
From there, it was party time at the Garden as fans chanted “We want the Cup!’’ then “Nathan Horton’’ as the rivals skated their lanes over the final 16 minutes. The extracurricular stuff started in the final three minutes. Naturally, Marchand was right in the middle of it. He flipped a pair of Canucks, including Daniel Sedin.
“He [Marchand] held off all night,’’ said Dennis Seidenberg. “But in the end he couldn’t help himself.’’
Thomas said his battle was provoked by Burrows the biter.
“They’ve been getting the butt end of my stick,’’ said the cult hero goalie. “It was the third time he’d hit the butt end and they were on a six-on-four power play and I thought I’d give him a little love tap and let him know I know what’s going on and I’m not going to let him do it forever.’’
After the final whistle, Thomas and his teammates encountered Horton, waiting for them in the winners’ locker room. Horton put the honorary Bruins jacket in Peverley’s locker.
Meanwhile, folks back in Vancouver have to be wondering about the no-show of the vaunted Sedin twins over the first four games (did analyst Mike Milbury really call them “Thelma and Louise’’?). Zdeno Chara, Seidenberg, and the rest of the Bruins have made the high-scoring Swedes invisible. It’s been like watching J.D. Drew play hockey with his twin brother. Would the twins perhaps care more if this were the Olympics or the world championships?
“They’re fired up, it’s not for lack of effort,’’ said Vigneault. “You’ve got to give the other team credit . . . We’ve got to put these last two games behind us and go home and feed off the energy of our fans.’’
“We have to bring our game,’’ countered the suddenly brilliant Julien. “That has to continue in Vancouver.’’
This much is certain: There will be more hockey at the Garden this year and someone’s going to have a chance to win the Cup here Monday. The series has become a best-of-three and it’s starting to feel like captain Chara could be hoisting the Stanley Cup over his 6-foot-9-inch head Monday night at the Garden.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.