VANCOUVER – If Boston fans hated Alex Burrows after “The Bite,” they don’t like him any better after he scored the overtime winner for the Vancouver Canucks in Game 2, putting the Bruins down 2-0 headed back to Beantown.
Rogers Arena erupted 11 seconds into OT, when Burrows skated into the offensive zone past Zdeno Chara, and around the back of the net to beat a down-and-out Tim Thomas.
“I saw Burrows all alone winding up for a slap shot,” said Thomas. “He was in a good scoring area; I was aggressive. He faked the shot but I was able to stay with him so that he couldn’t get the original shot off. But then he was able to go around the net and tuck it in.”
Burrows opened the scoring for Vancouver in the first period when his shot beat Thomas over the right shoulder. Burrows also racked up an assist, giving him a three-point night.
Considering many Bruins players and fans expected Burrows to be suspended for Game 2 after biting Patrice Bergeron’s finger in Game 1, it’s a bitter pill for the visitors to swallow.
“It’s tough,” said Milan Lucic, talking about Burrows dodging a suspension and being a difference-maker. “We’re not a team that’s going to cry about what happened. It is what it is.”
Lucic, a Vancouver native, was the Boston’s best skater, and drained the tying goal in the second period with a blue-collar goal, banging in a rebound on the doorstep in front of Luongo for the Bruins’ first goal of the series.
Those greasy goals down in the trenches look like the Bruins’ best bet to beat Luongo.
“It was nice to not be shutout like we were last game,” said Lucic. “A lot of goals are scored in front of the net and you’ve got to create that net-front presence. It was much better today and that’s why we were able to get two goals.”
Giving Boston the lead was another Bruin back in his home province of British Columbia – Mark Recchi. Recchi tipped Zdeno Chara’s wobbler from the point past Luongo on the power play to take a 2-1 lead.
The Bruins’ lackluster power play has plagued them this post-season, but head coach Claude Julien made changes coming into Game 2 that yielded results. The biggest change was putting Chara back on the point instead of in front of the net. Chara’s booming shot was missed on the point, and while he’s a big body that’s tough to move in front of Luongo, he doesn’t have the soft touch that is another key ingredient to play that roll with the man advantage.
“I think Zdeno has a lot of ice time,” said Julien of the changes on special teams. “When you play a lot, you certainly don’t want him in front all the time. It’s a very taxing position to be in. We thought that Lucic was bringing a pretty good physical presence tonight, and we got ourselves a goal out of it.”
The Bruins looked in control for much of the second period and early in the third period. But then the Canucks showed once again their ability to dictate the pace of the game, taking over the third period much the way they did in Game 1.
After a pair of dominant shifts for Burrows and the twins, Daniel Sedin got the home team even by popping the puck into the net after a heads up pass from Burrows.
That forced overtime, which shocked the Bruins, who were undefeated in post-season OT this year.
“It was not the way I envisioned it going,” said Tim Thomas. “We’ve won a lot of overtime games this Stanley Cup playoffs and I thought it was going to be the same tonight.”
The Canucks were given a boost by the return of center Manny Malhotra, who was expected to miss the entire season with a career-threatening eye injury. Malhotra logged over seven minutes of ice-time, and went 6-1 in the faceoff circle, the best of any skater on the night.
“It was a real happy moment for our whole group to be able to put Manny in the lineup and to have him play the way he did,” said Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault. “I’m excited to have him back and I think he’s only going to get better as we move forward here.”
For the Bruins, it’s time to dig deep. Boston came back from a 2-0 series deficit earlier this post-season when they fell behind to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. But Boston has had trouble matching the speed of the Vancouver defense, and the Canucks depth players have been much better than the Bruins’ third and fourth lines.
With the series headed back to Boston, it’s do or die for the Bruins.