There was bite gate. There was Brad Marchand. There was Roberto Luongo’s tire-pumping miscue of the mouth. And a whole lot more.
Fights. Physicality. Passion. Bad Blood. The seven-game series encapsulated everything you want in the biggest of stages; and it was the Boston Bruins who left Vancouver with the sporting world’s most storied trophy- The Cup.
The Vancouver Canucks, trying to exact as much revenge as possible on their hated 2011 opponent, have defeated the Bruins twice in the teams only two meetings since that historic day- once in Boston, once in Vancouver.
The game in December had storylines of its own- Marchand mocking the Canucks players and fans by kissing his ring finger and “lifting the Cup”; Milan Lucic’s postgame scuffle with a Vancouver townie. You can’t make this stuff up.
But Bruins Coach Claude Julien knows while his team must use their emotions to their advantage, they must maintain focus as well; and he spoke about it at Tuesday’s morning skate.
“Well I think there are a lot of reasons to be ready for tonight,” said Julien. “Last time we were in their building they decisively beat us. Second of all, they’re coming off of a loss last night and I’m sure- they’re a proud team- they are going to come out hard tonight because of the circumstances, not just because of us. So more reasons for us to be ready to play this game.”
Milan Lucic got the scoring started early after a Vancouver turnover led to an odd-man rush for the Bruins top line.
Jarome Iginla fed David Krejci, who delayed then delivered the perfect feed to Lucic; Lucic then buried a wrister past Luongo preceding an array of taunts from black and gold nation.
“Luongooo!” “Luongooo!” We’ve heard this before haven’t we? And it lasted all game long.
Iginla scored the second goal of the game extending the Bruins lead to 2-0.
After a blueline collision between Lucic and Torey Krug, Daniel Sedin skated in all alone on Tuukka Rask but was stoned by the goalie. The Bruins then carried the puck up ice and captain Zdeno Chara fed Jarome Iginla for his 16th goal of the season.
“Those are usually the momentum-changers and game-changers,” said Rask postgame. “You want to make that save more often than not. Today, it was good that I did and we scored right after. That was really huge.”
After a couple more tallies, including a beautiful Dan Paille breakaway goal on a Johnny Boychuk homerun pass, the Bruins led 3-1 after two periods of play.
A scoreless third period and the game was over. The Bruins had defeated the Canucks for the first time since that historic day.
The game was dominated by the Bruins first line; and on the back end, Boychuk was a wrecking ball.
Frustrated with some of Vancouver’s antics- like repeated crosschecks to his back- Boychuk spoke of his physicality after the game.
“Oh yeah, absolutely. When something like that happens to you, you get a little ticked off and you want to just crush people,” he said. “I mean it’s not a big secret. You just have to try and do it cleanly.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien was also impressed with the play of his physical defenseman and the momentum it gave his team.
“Johnny’s very capable of doing that,” said Julien. “Especially in this building here, anytime our team comes up with a big, clean hit, it really gets the crowd into the game, and it really picks up your team. That’s for anybody I think, and that’s the way we play the game. We like to play a heavy game, and to me, Johnny was at his best here tonight.”
When asked about the emotions of the game, Julien said while the “nastiness” may not have been as imminent, the intensity was still very much there.
“I think it was still pretty intense, in my mind,” he said. “You could see by the hits, by the battles and everything else, but it was done in a more tasteful way, I guess. There was nothing that crossed the line, and I think that’s important, but I don’t think there’s any love lost between these two teams still. To me, there’s always respect for a team you played against in the finals, and right now, it’s basically the first time we’ve beaten them since then. It was a victory that we needed.”
A victory they needed; and a victory they had.
The Bruins now must finish this pre-Olympic two-game stretch without the likes of their stud defenseman, and captain, Zdeno Chara.
A tough task, but certainly doable.