BOSTON (CBS) — Nearly three full years have passed since the Bruins and Canucks played for the Stanley Cup, but there’s just no denying there’s an extra level of intensity when the two teams meet. Perhaps it’s because they don’t see each other often, or perhaps it’s because there are just too many leftover grudges from that epic seven-game series, but either way, there’s a difference in the air when the B’s meet the Canucks.
That was the case on Tuesday night at TD Garden, and though there were no line brawls and no fake Cups being lifted or fake rings being kissed, there was a certain level of nasty that isn’t always present in regular-season contests. And for the first time since June 15, 2011, the Bruins came away with a win against their newfound rivals.
“I think it was still pretty intense, by my mind,” said B’s head coach Claude Julien. “You could see by the hits, 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. But to me, there’s always a respect for a team that you played against in the finals, and right now it’s been basically our first time beating them since then. So it was a victory that we needed.”
The Boston win came in part due to Roberto Luongo making his first appearance on Bruins ice since that playoff series, as he sat comfortably on the bench in the Canucks’ visit to Boston in January 2012. His results this time around must have felt awfully familiar, with the Bruins scoring twice on their first nine shots on net.
“I think this one’s 100 percent on me,” said Luongo, who was pulled twice in that Final, allowing 15 goals on just 66 shots in Boston. “I wasn’t feeling too good out there tonight. I wasn’t tracking well, my reads were off. I think I made a big mistake last night — we got in late, so I didn’t skate this morning, and I just didn’t feel like myself out there. So it was a disappointing performance for me here. I thought the guys deserved better.”
After the Canucks cut the Boston lead in half with a laser from Raphael Diaz, the Bruins responded quickly with a Brad Marchand goal to extend the lead back to two. That goal didn’t stand, however, because Torey Krug fell on Luongo during the play, and the goal was taken off the board after a replay review.
No matter, though, as Johnny Boychuk finished off a physically grueling shift by connecting with Daniel Paille on a 100-foot pass that set the winger free on a breakaway. Paille slipped a backhander between the netminder’s leg pads, giving the Bruins a 3-1 lead and sending the sellout crowd into a frenzied roar of “Luuuuu-onnnnn-gooooo.”
“I was really tired. I’m not going to lie,” Boychuk said of the shift. “We were out there battling, and I just looked up and Danny was coming off the bench, and I just had to make the pass. It’s not as easy as it looks, especially when you’re at the end of a long, long shift. … You look up and you’re trying to get it out of your zone, but you look up and you see Danny coming off the bench, and that’s probably the last thing you’re expecting, especially when you’re out there for a long time. It’s just a nice goal, though.”
Unlike the last two meetings, there were no major scuffles. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a heavy dose of physical play from both sides. Boychuk spent much of his aforementioned second-period shift wrestling and fighting with David Booth, and the two were just getting stated. Boychuk upended Booth with a green-light hit in the closing seconds of the second period, and he delivered a thunderous hip check on Booth early in the third period.
Julien noted that Boychuk’s physical play provided the spark the Bruins needed on this particular night.
“Johnny’s very capable of doing that,” Julien said. “Especially in this building here, any time our team comes out with a big clean hit, it really gets the crowd into the game and it really picks up your team. … That’s the way we play a game, we like to play a heavy game.
“To me, Johnny was at his best here tonight,” the coach said.
Milan Lucic agreed, adding that the team will need more nights like that in the next two games, with Zdeno Chara heading to Russia early to participate in the Olympics opening ceremonies.
“He’s a big, strong boy and he always comes to play, and he knows how to use his body well,” said Lucic, who opened the scoring with a top-shelf wrister which beat Luongo high to the blocker side 5:12 into the first. “You saw it here today, he was on the back end, he started to kind of take over the game physically, and we need that from him heading into the next few games.”
Perhaps the strongest indication of the Bruins’ complete game came from Canucks head coach John Tortorella, who expressed a willingness Monday night to swap out half of his roster for different players following a loss to Detroit. After Tuesday’s loss, Tortorella had a much different message for his banged-up club.
“I don’t have a complaint about our team tonight,” Tortorella said. “We don’t win, but I don’t have a complaint, because I thought our team gave everything they had.”
Everything they had wasn’t enough, and the result was very different than the December meeting in Vancouver, when the Canucks piled on with a 6-2 win, chasing Tuukka Rask in the process. This time around, Rask fared much better, stopping 21 of 22 shots sent his way to earn his first career win against Vancouver. That body of work included a stop of Daniel Sedin on a breakaway, a save that led directly to a breakout and the Bruins’ second goal of the night.
“Tuukka bailed us out there,” Boychuk said.
The Canucks had their chance to come back, with an improved Luongo showing up for the third and Chris Kelly going to the penalty box at 11:33 of the final period. But the Bruins closed out the victory, getting the last word in this rivalry.
That is, until Game 11 of the series takes place next year.