VANCOUVER, B.C. — The Boston Bruins had waited 39 years for another drink from the Stanley Cup, and Tim Thomas was awfully thirsty.
When the Bruins and their brilliant goalie barged into a hostile Canadian rink surrounded by another 100,000 screaming fans outside for Game 7, they emerged with the championship they wanted.
Thomas made 37 saves in the second shutout of his landmark finals performance, Patrice Bergeron and rookie Brad Marchand scored two goals apiece and the Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks, 4-0, on Wednesday night for their first championship since 1972.
“I think I went even further than I thought,” Thomas said. “I never envisioned three Game sevens in one playoff series and still being able to come out on top.”
Bergeron scored the winner in the first period and added a short-handed score in the second to keep the Cup away from the Canucks, who have not won it in nearly 41 years of existence. Star goalie Roberto Luongo again failed to match Thomas’ brilliance, giving up 18 goals in the last five games of the finals.
Mark Messier and the New York Rangers won Game 7 in Vancouver’s last finals appearance in 1994. This time, Thomas silenced the NHL’s highest-scoring team, erased nearly four decades of Bruins playoff blunders and crushed an entire Canadian city desperate to take the Stanley Cup to Stanley Park.
Thomas limited the Canucks to eight goals in seven spectacular games in the finals, blanking Vancouver in two of the last four. Boston dropped the first two games in Vancouver but became just the third team since 1966 to overcome that deficit.
“All the physical work we’d done throughout the whole series added up,” Thomas said. “Being the last series, we didn’t save anything, and we used that physicality again and that was the difference.”
Bergeron added a Stanley Cup ring to his gold medals from the Olympics and the world championships with his biggest game of a quiet series. He scored his first goal of the finals late in the first period on a shot Luongo saw too late, and Marchand added his 10th goal of the postseason in the second before Bergeron’s short-handed goal, which inexplicably slid under Luongo.
The Bruins are the first team in NHL history to win a Game 7 three times in the same postseason, and they drew another dose of inspiration from forward Nathan Horton, whose concussion in Game 3 irrevocably changed the series’ momentum.
Horton attended Game 7, and he apparently poured a bottle of Boston water onto the ice in front of the Bruins’ bench 90 minutes before warmups. He joined his teammates in the raucous postgame celebration, putting on his skates and taking a celebratory turn with the Stanley Cup held high above his head.
Horton was lost for the series with a concussion on a hit from Vancouver’s Aaron Rome. The Bruins rallied for four wins in five games after Horton’s injury.
During a two-week Stanley Cup finals that ranks among the NHL’s weirdest in recent years, the only predictable aspect had been the home teams’ dominance. Vancouver eked out three one-goal victories at home, while the Bruins won three blowouts in Boston.
The loss capped a spectacular collapse by Luongo, the enigmatic goalie who backstopped Canada to Olympic gold medals on this same ice sheet a year ago. Luongo was pulled from the Canucks’ last two games in Boston after giving up 15 goals on the road, and he was fatally shaky in Game 7.
Luongo praised his own positional game earlier in the series, but he didn’t recover in time to stop Marchand’s second-period goal. Five minutes later, he inexplicably failed to close his legs on a slowly sliding puck on Bergeron’s goal — the seventh allowed by Luongo on the last 21 shots he faced dating back to Game 4.
Luongo wasn’t alone in deserving Vancouver’s blame: The Sedin twins are the NHL’s last two scoring champions, but they capped a disastrous finals by being on the ice for ALL of Boston’s goals. Captain Henrik Sedin, last season’s MVP, scored just one goal in the series, while Daniel Sedin had two goals and two assists, scoring in just two of the seven games.
Boston overcame more than the Vancouver crowd and the NHL’s highest-scoring team to win this Cup. Starting in the first round, when the Bruins rallied past Montreal after losing the series’ first two games at home, this team has showed a resilience and tenacity that hasn’t been seen much in the self-professed Hub of Hockey in four decades.