BOSTON (CBS) – It was just another regular season game… WRONG!
It all began when the 2011-2012 regular season schedule was released. Everyone from Boston to Vancouver had January 7, circled on their must-see TV calendar. Some said it would just another game on the 82-game schedule, but you knew it wouldn’t.
From June 1 – 15, 2011, a lot of history was written between the Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks and Saturday, they met again. No, it wasn’t a Stanley Cup Final rematch or Game 8 of the Final. It was Game 38 on the schedule, but everyone knew it wouldn’t be just that.
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The Canucks left the TD Garden with a battle-tested 4-3 victory on the strength of four power play goals helped by the undisciplined Bruins. The carnage began just about four minutes into the game as Alexandre Burrows and Shawn Thornton exchanged slashes just in front of the Vancouver bench and a melee broke out as Thornton was gang-tackled by six Canucks before his Bruin teammates came to his rescue.
At the referees’ first glance, it seemed that Milan Lucic came off the bench to join the fracas, which earned him a game misconduct and could have resulted in a 10-game suspension and more discipline for the coach and the team. The NHL reviewed the incident and reversed the penalties after video showed Lucic came over the boards on a normal line change.
A solid battle, although a bit worrisome, took place between Nathan Horton and Canucks tough guy Dale Weise with Horton holding his own. Hopefully no head games for Horton after that battle! Boston was left with trying to kill a 5-on-3 Vancouver power play. They almost survived it until a long rebound came out to Ryan Kesler and he had the entire left side of the goal to give the Canucks the lead.
Boston later tied the game on a wonderfully skilled move by Brad Marchand and took the lead on a what should’ve been an icing call, but was waved off and Rich Peverly picked up the puck off the boards and wristed a 15-footer by the blocker side of goaltender Corey Schneider and the B’s had a 2-1 lead.
Tyler Seguin in the penalty box for tripping put the Canucks back on the power play and they cashed in again on an Alexandre Burrows tip-in standing on Thomas’ doorstep tying the game.
The turning point was at just under two minutes left in the second period. Marchand was on the right wing boards going after the puck. Sammy Salo was about to paste him on the boards and Marchand bent low and undercut him for a rarely called clipping penalty, which also carries a game misconduct and review from league officials (re: Brendan Shanahan). I think we can expect a fine and suspension, especially with slewfoot fine earlier this season. Definitely not one of his most proud moments, but there are a lot of NHL players who have those moments.
One minute into the Marchand major penalty, Henrik Sedin tipped home an Alexander Edler blast from the point to put Vancouver ahead 3-2, and 1:09 into the final period, the Bruins were still trying to survive the major when rookie Cody Hodgson flying down the right side blasted a rocket over the shoulder of Thomas and to get a 2-goal lead.
All four goals were scored on the power play. Oh, did I mention the Canucks have the league’s number one power play and they made sure everyone in Boston knew that.
For their part, the Bruins did not go away, getting a nice goal by David Krejci on his own rebound. He did hard work in front of the net to close the gap to 4-3. But it was Marblehead native Schneider making sure that would be as close as Boston would get with a couple of nifty saves on Patrice Bergeron late in the game.
It was a loss for the Bruins, but what an entertaining afternoon. Cheap shots notwithstanding, it reminded me of those afternoon games at the old Boston Garden which were always a delight, for some reason better than an evening game.
So, what to make of this 38th game of the season, its a great game for Bruin haters to come out with all the vitriol they have had since June 15, 2011 and boy, if you check twitter and the blogosphere, it’s there. It’s what happens when you are good and the champs.
As a really good friend from Montreal said to me after the 9-0 whitewashing of the Calgary Flames, “This nightmare wont end….Are the Bruins really that good?” I happen to think they are. Sure, the Bruins are a physical team. It has been their trademark for as long as I’ve been alive. It’s in their DNA. I certainly hope it will never change. I think they probably will need to make sure they hold their composure when it counts because as you know, retaliation is what the referees see and against a team like Vancouver, penalties will kill you.
It would’ve been nice to see Roberto Luongo in net Saturday but you know what, good for Corey Schneider. Playing in his hometown where he grew up and played his college hockey, with a bunch of family and friends watching and the pressure of this “regular season game” against the Stanley Cup Champs, he was pretty solid in net considering the pressure!
Time to move on to Game 39 and continue playing the brand of hockey that put them second in the Eastern Conference. Still satisfied that they are playing that way and 5-on-5, the Bruins are still the best in the league because of their work ethic and the physicality they bring just about every night.
Two more teams from Canada continue this home stand as the Bruins will look to avenge a recent 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, and then what could be another one of “those” games on Thursday with the Montreal Canadiens.
Ric Duarte has covered hockey and the Bruins for various media outlets since 1986. You can follow Ric at BruinsDieHard.com and at twitter @bruins_diehard.