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BOSTON (AP) — With their first victory of the Stanley Cup finals already secure, the Boston Bruins still scored on their final three shots against Roberto Luongo in Game 3.
Mark Recchi, Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder all slipped pucks past the befuddled Vancouver goalie, stoking a steady crescendo of cheers from fans who clearly thought the Bruins’ 8-1 victory Monday night was worth the 21-year wait since their team’s previous trip at the finals.
Perhaps those late exclamation points will raise a few more question marks in the Canucks’ minds before the Bruins attempt to even the series in Game 4 on Wednesday night.
Andrew Ference and David Krejci each had a goal and an assist during Boston’s four-goal second period, and Tim Thomas made 40 saves in another stellar performance as the Bruins trimmed Vancouver’s series lead to 2-1.
“We started scoring, and the floodgates opened, and we just kept going,” Thomas said. “I think that’s the right approach. It reminded me of the Montreal series where everybody was putting in goals here. That’s what we’re going to need the rest of the way out for us to win the Stanley Cup. We’re going to need contributions from everyone.”
The Bruins had no shortage of motivation even before right wing Nathan Horton was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher early in the first period, knocked senseless by a late hit from Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome.
Boston was eager to atone for two one-goal losses in Vancouver in which the Canucks controlled the third period. The Bruins dominated the final 40 minutes back home, battering Luongo — who stopped 30 shots and declined to come out of the game — while sending the Canucks to one of the most embarrassing losses in franchise history.
Horton was talking and moving his extremities, and the Bruins were cautiously optimistic he would emerge relatively healthy from the hospital on Tuesday.
“It’s always tough when a guy goes down,” said forward Brad Marchand, who scored a short-handed goal in the second. “We really wanted to get this win tonight for him. It’s a very tough situation, and everyone is worried about him, but it definitely gave us motivation to win.”
Mark Recchi scored two goals for the Bruins, who produced their highest-scoring playoff game since getting nine goals on April 20, 1983, while sending the Canucks to their worst playoff defeat. The game degenerated into a prolonged brawl in the third period, with numerous scuffles and misconduct penalties.
Jannik Hansen broke up Thomas’ shutout bid with 6:07 to play for the Canucks, who finally hit a major bump in their late-season roll toward their first Stanley Cup title. The NHL’s most impressive power play went 0 for 8 in Game 3, dropping to 1 for 16 in the finals and even giving up two short-handed goals to Marchand and Daniel Paille.
“Still 2-1 for us. Luckily, we are not playing with an aggregate score,” Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. “Next game is huge for us, and if we take care of that, we are in a great position. You don’t want to lose 8-1. It’s embarrassing at this time of year.”
The Bruins were one goal shy of equaling the finals record of nine goals, set by Detroit in Game 2 of the 1936 series and matched by Toronto six years later in Game 5. The eight goals were the most scored in the finals since Colorado topped Florida 8-1 on June 6, 1996, in Game 2, according to STATS LLC.
The Canucks had given up just six total goals in their previous four games while closing out the Western Conference finals and taking a two-game lead over Boston.
“I thought in the first period, we played pretty well,” said NHL scoring champion Daniel Sedin, who got a misconduct penalty in the third period. “They got a lucky break in the second and got some easy goals from then on. The game got out of hand. We need to be better as a team, and we will be next game.”
Thomas was sharp for Boston, with a handful of slick saves including two point-blank stops on Mason Raymond late in the second period. The goalie then got the Boston crowd on its feet with a two-handed check of Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin, knocking the playoffs scoring leader flat on his back while he tried to catch a puck that popped into the air in front of Thomas’ crease.
The Bruins started the night with a frightening injury. After Horton passed the puck to Milan Lucic at the Vancouver blue line, Rome left his feet to deliver a hard shoulder check to Horton’s upper chest and head. Horton appeared to be unconscious after he landed flat on his back, his arm spookily reaching up into empty space.
“I think what I recall is it was a blindside hit that we’ve talked about taking out of the game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “That’s my view on it. Let the league take care of it. We’re trying to clean that part of the game out.”
Medical personnel spent several minutes attending to Horton, who scored the Bruins’ winning Game 7 goals in the first round against Montreal and again in the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay.
“I never want to see any player leave in that situation,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. “The hit seemed to be a little bit late. … That was a head-on hit, player looking at his pass. It was a little bit late. I don’t think that’s the hit the league is trying to take out.”
Rome got a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct, with at least one fan throwing a yellow towel at the Vancouver bench while Rome went to the dressing room. The shaken Bruins didn’t score on six shots on their marathon power play, but the Boston crowd rose and cheered several minutes later when a scoreboard message gave good news about Horton’s condition.
Boston couldn’t score on its ensuing five-minute power play, but just 11 seconds into the second period, Ference threaded a long shot past Krejci and two Canucks defensemen to beat Luongo on the far side of his net.
The Bruins’ struggling power play finally connected 4:11 later for just its seventh goal of the postseason when Recchi’s centering pass hit the stick of Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, deflecting through Luongo’s legs.
After Marchand created his own short-handed goal with a pass to himself off the boards, the rout was on when Krejci scored an easy goal on a long rebound given up by the struggling Luongo, a top contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.
NOTES: The Bruins won Game 3 in all four of their postseason series. … Julien made one lineup change for Game 3, scratching rookie Tyler Seguin and inserting Shawn Thornton. … Thornton threw his stick up the Bruins’ tunnel in anger at the officials after getting a misconduct penalty in the third period.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)