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The Boston Bruins created a whole new meaning for the term “home ice advantage” on Monday night in an 8-1 bashing of the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. This game was labeled a must-win for the B’s, as they were staring down the possibility of a 3-0 series deficit if they couldn’t pull out a victory in their first game back home. After suffering two heartbreaking losses in Vancouver in which they played very well, the Bruins found the grit and fire they needed to get over the hump and get back into the series.
Maybe it was the roar of a crowd with Cup hopes hinging on this series; hopes that have been 39 years in the making. Maybe it was the fact that they have managed to play incredible hockey against talented opposition, only to have continually paid dearly for the very few mistakes they do make. Maybe it was because one of their leaders, and arguably one of the classiest men in the NHL, has been mocked and disrespected all series.
I tend to think the final straw was the illegal blind side hit that Aaron Rome put on Bruins star forward Nathan Horton. Something changes in the heart of champions when they watch a man who has fought for them, and who has literally put them on his back in this playoffs at times, lay eerily unaware and motionless on the ice after taking a hit like that. Aaron Rome left his skates to throw his shoulder into the chest and head of Horton, who had long since given up possession of the puck and never saw Rome coming.
Considering the way the Canucks have behaved – with no regard or respect for the Bruins – only makes the hit that much more disgusting; because it looks premeditated and calculated. Is it possible that this team targeted Horton? The guy has only scored the two most important goals of the 2011 playoffs for his team. Losing him was going to go one of two ways for the Bruins: it would either be a soul-sucking lethal dagger to the heart and soul of the team and Bruins Nation, or it would light a massive fire under a team that is at its most emotional. The Canucks knew this, and because they were arrogant enough to believe that they would win either way. They gambled, and the dealer screwed them.
To the dismay of Bruins fans, the 1st period of this game resembled the first previous seven periods almost identically. The only difference? Shawn Thorton was dressed to play, and Tyler Seguin was a healthy scratch for the first time since the Bruins’ series against the Flyers. Considered a controversial move in light of the major need for an increase in offensive output, Seguin’s quick skating and scoring ability was replaced by Thorton’s hard hitting leadership.
Do intangibles really work in games like this against teams like this?
We’ll never really know whether Shawn Thorton was the difference for this teams morale Monday night because after the hit on Horton, it seemed that this team had to answer. They had to dig for the stuff that makes outmatched and inferiorly talented teams play like they are the better team. The hit by Rome was called as a five-minute major interference, and Rome left the game charged with a 10-minute game misconduct penalty.
Shortly thereafter, Mark Recchi was seen on instant replay attempting to stick his finger in Maxim LaPierre’s mouth in a scrum in the Bruins’ zone. Recchi played physically early, making hits and setting the tone for his team, and it was clear the B’s were now playing angry.
But the period still played out with little offensive attack by the Bruins, with the Cancucks managing to a again dominate the Boston zone and create pressure on Tim Thomas who had already had to come up with some big saves in the game.
It’s still unclear whether Julien went in the locker room during intermission and gave a “Miracle”-style monologue to his team that inspired them to do what they did next. Maybe it was just all for “Horty.” Whatever happened in there, it was enough to inspire the first line to come out guns blazing.
Rich Peverly lost the faceoff but the Bruins were able to re-gather the puck, giving Krejci a quick shot on net. The rebound was corralled, and 11 seconds into the period, Andrew Ference scored on a 63-foot slapshot assisted by Peverly and Milan Lucic. The Bruins had drawn first blood, and that was apparently all they needed.
Two and a half minutes later, Shawn Thornton drew a hooking penalty from Jeff Tambellini. The two-minute power play looked like it may have been another loss chance for the Bruins, until Mark Recchi tipped in a short slap shot off of Ryan Kesler’s stick and through the 5-hole of Luongo with 2 seconds left on the man-advantage.
Vancouver finally drew their first penalty 6 minutes and 22 seconds into the period on an Andrew Ference trip of Alexandre Burrows. But the Bruins penalty kill looked superb as it has all series, even managing a shorthanded shot on net by Gregory Campbell. The momentum was clearly in the B’s favor, even while the other team had an extra man on the ice.
That’s why halfway through the period when the Canucks went on another power play on a slashing call against Lucic, the Bruins were more than ready for it. If you hadn’t have counted the players on ice and seen the graphic at the top of the screen indicating so, you would never have known that Vancouver was on the power play at all. Chris Kelly got the first shot on goal, and the Bruins continued to hit hard and skate fast. Then Brad Marchand got possession of the puck, shot off like a rocket while deftly skating through four Canucks to go head to head to head with Luongo. He tossed a bullet of a topshelf snapper over Luongo’s left shoulder; and all of the sudden the Bruins were up 3-0 and scoring on the other team’s power plays.
With just over 4 minutes left in the period, Krejci found the puck on a rebound from a shot by Michael Ryder and tossed in a wrist shot on Luongo’s glove side. Ryder and Zdeno Chara were credited with the assist, and the Bruins went to intermission with a 4-0 lead. So much for being offensively challenged.
The Canucks began the period on the power play which carried over from a 4-minute double minor awarded them on a Johnny Boychuck high-sticking call. This would set the tone for the period, as penalty after penalty was called. It seemed the entire period was spent with someone on the power play. The game was getting very chippy, and in just one minute Andrew Ference, Daniel Sedin and Shawn Thorton were all given 10-minute game misconduct penalties. Here’s a good example of how this period went:
That was all after one scrum!
Still, shortly thereafter while the Canucks were still on the power play, Daniel Paille scored the shorthanded goal on an assist from Johnny Boychuck. The Bruins were now up 5-0 with less than half a period to play.
Tim Thomas unfortunately couldn’t hold on to the shutout, as Jannik Hansen beat him on the weak side of a short wrist shot to get the only goal of the game for the Canucks with 6:07 left in the period.
The Bruins went on to score on each one of their final three shots on goal in the game. Mark Recchi snapped in an 18-footer for his second of the game, assisted by Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Chris Kelly got the help from Chara and Paille to lay in a wristshot with 1:54 to go. Finally Michael Ryder scored on a 30 foot snap shot during the Bruins’ final power play of the game, initiated by a Rafi Torres charge on Johnny Boychuck.
Game 4 is Wednesday night at TD Garden.