Thomas MVP, Bruins Win First Cup Since ’72

VANCOUVER – In a display of perseverance for the record books, the Boston Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 at Rogers Arena to win the Stanley Cup in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Bruins overcame the loss of top forward Nathan Horton earlier in the finals to become the first team in history to win Game 7 three times in a single playoffs.

The Bruins’ never-say-die attitude also had them overcome two 2-0 series deficits – versus the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, and versus the Canucks – en route to their first Cup since defeating the New York Rangers in the 1972 finals.

Goaltender Tim Thomas had a transcendent series, and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.

“It feels unreal right now,” said Thomas, standing at center ice. “It still hasn’t set in for me.”

Thomas was not immune to feeling some nerves, even though he looked calm and cool throughout the series.

“I made it look like I was composed to you guys, but I was nervous, there was no doubt about it, especially as the series went on,” said Thomas. “But my job as a goalie is to hide that and give the team confidence in front of me.”

Thomas put an exclamation point on his Conn Smythe performance with a shutout in Game 7, his second of the series. His unflappable play seemed to affect Vancouver, who shot the puck high and wide all night looking for ways to beat the Bruins netminder.

Things got off to an auspicious start for Boston with Patrice Bergeron scoring the first of his two goals in the first period. Bergeron was alone in the slot and put a shot past Roberto Luongo that seemed to sap the Canucks and their fans of energy.

Scoring chances for the Canucks were few and far between all night and throughout the series. Vancouver had the NHL’s best offence in the regular season, but were held to eight goals in seven games by Boston.

“It was a tough battle all series,” said Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. “Definitely they were hard to shut down. They’re are a really smart group. They always get the puck deep. They’re like a machine. It took a lot of hard work from us.”

Seidenberg assisted on Brad Marchand’s wraparound goal to make it 2-0, and notched his second assist of the night on Bergeron’s second goal, a shorthanded marker that made it 3-0.

For Bergeron, winning the Stanley Cup is the culmination of a lifetime of dedication to hockey.

“Obviously having a chance to hoist that Cup is a childhood dream,” said Bergeron. “I was five-years-old with my brother outside playing pond hockey, and that was the dream. And now I’m here. I’m so happy.”

In the third period, a desperate Canucks team pulled Luongo with three minutes to play. Marchand added an empty net goal to seal the deal for the Bruins, making them the first of the two squads to win a road game in these finals.

“We knew we had a physical edge on them; we knew they were more banged up than we were, and we took advantage of that,” said Milan Lucic, explaining how his team managed to win Game 7 and the series. “We did exactly what we needed to do.”

It was a long run for Boston, and the future wasn’t always certain. But the Bruins showed focus and resiliency that carried through to their ultimate goal.

“We sacrificed so much through the whole playoffs,” said team captain, Zdeno Chara. “It’s such a long run; it’s so hard. And you need support from your family, and I got that 100 percent from my wife and my daughter. It’s an unbelievable honor to be in this position.”

Veteran Bruins forward Mark Recchi hoisted the Stanley Cup for the third and final time in his career, announcing his retirement from the ice during the post-game celebration.

“This is it,” said the 43-year-old Recchi. “I can’t thank the organization enough for believing in me and bringing me back. Everybody on this team has worked hard to get here. We’ve worked long and hard to turn this team in the right direction. This is one of the best groups I’ve ever played with. We believed in each other and stuck strong together throughout the course of the year.”

Giving Boston an emotional boost was the presence of injured forward Nathan Horton, who skated onto the ice after the game to lift the Stanley Cup.

One other special figure on the ice was Bruins president Cam Neely, a long-time Boston sports hero going back to his days as a Bruin in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Neely made it to the Stanley Cup Finals twice as a player, but the Bruins were defeated both times. He lifted the Cup for the first time on Wednesday night.

“This is absolutely for the fans. They deserve this,” said Neely. “The players did everything they could to win this Cup. The fan base has been waiting for a long, long time for this to happen again. There’s been a lot of heartache. I’m extremely happy for the fans of the Bruins.”

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