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Dan Shaughnessy

A rough start for Bruins

At the bitter end, another finals heartbreaker

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By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / June 2, 2011

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — They are 4,029 kilometers from home, taking on an entire country, attempting to do something they have not done since the Nixon administration.

It is not going to be easy.

On a day when natural disasters plagued fans back in Greater Boston (what is it about the Bruins and power outages in the finals?), the Bruins dropped the first game of the Stanley Cup finals in excruciating fashion last night, losing to the favored Vancouver Canucks, 1-0, on a Raffi Torres goal with only 18.5 seconds left on the clock.

That’s right, people. The Bruins and Canucks skated to a scoreless tie for 59 minutes and 41 1/2 seconds before Vancouver won it when Torres slipped the puck past Tim Thomas after a terrific pass from Jannik Hansen on a two-on-one.

The Bruins played well, but this was a crushing defeat. Boston went 0 for 6 on power plays, including a four-minute stretch in the first period, and an 83-second five-on-three in the second. Boston has converted only 5 of 67 power plays in this amazing playoff run.

Again with the power outages.

Adding insult to injury, Canucks winger Alex Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron’s right index finger at the end of the first period.

Love at first bite. There were 13 penalties in the opener.

“Both teams were trying to make a statement,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “There’s going to be some strong emotions and both teams reacted to that.’’

Your Bruins are in a little bit of a drought when it comes to this event. This is their sixth appearance in the finals since they last won in 1972, and they are 5-21 in finals games since Johnny Bucyk last hoisted the Cup. Last night’s loss give the Bruins 11 losses in their last 12 finals games.

“I don’t think you should have emotional highs and lows in a seven-game series,’’ said Thomas. “That’ll tire you out. We were neck and neck with them, obviously. Certainly a lot of good things came out of this game, but we have to score goals.’’

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman took questions before the game. Bettman, a former David Stern lieutenant, was not asked about NBA/Celtics publicity hound Shaquille O’Neal, who chose the afternoon of the Bruins’ first appearance in the Stanley Cup finals in 21 years to announce his overdue retirement.

It would be an understatement to tell you that the locals are Cup-hungry. Bad as it’s been in the Hub of Hockey, Vancouver has never won this thing, even though the Canucks have been in the NHL since 1970. Heaping more pressure on the quest is the fact that no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens.

Naturally, the Bruins and their fans think Boston’s plight is far more desperate. The Bruins skate to regain relevance in a market recently saturated with champagne toasts. The Bruins’ first appearance in the finals since 1990 is Boston’s ninth championship event since the 2001 Patriots won the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

Both national anthem performances were impressive, particularly “O Canada,’’ which was sung by Mark Donnelly, who looks like Barry Melrose’s chunkier older brother.

The Bruins outshot the Canucks, 17-12, in the first. It was demoralizing to see the Bruins fail to score on a four-minute power play in the first when Daniel Sedin went off for a high-sticking double minor. The Bruins got eight shots on Luongo, and Zdeno Chara looked good in front of the net, but Vancouver stuffed the Bruins B’s for the full four.

The Bergeron-Burrows dust-up came after the siren at the end of the first. Quebec vs. Quebec. All the cursing was done in French.

“He said I put my finger in his mouth and he had to do it,’’ said Bergeron. “He cut me a little on my finger. I’m not going to complain about it. That’s up to the league.’’

“His finger ended up in my mouth,’’ said Burrows.

“If that’s the case, it’s a classless move,’’ said Julien.

It was shades of Tree Rollins and Danny Ainge back in 1983. Through the years the story has gotten twisted and most fans today believe Ainge bit Rollins. No. Tree Bit Man on the parquet floor that day and the man was Danny Ainge.

With Burrows and Kevin Bieksa both off early in the second, the Bruins had a five-on-three advantage for 1:23. You would think that it would be impossible to avoid scoring with 83 seconds of five-on-three. You would be wrong. The Bruins were smothered again.

Neither team established much flow early in the third as Thomas and Luongo continued to reject all would-be scorers.

“We seemed to lack energy and lose our legs in the third,’’ said Julien.

Then they lost the game. As we all got ready for overtime, Johnny Boychuk made a gamble near the blue line, but Ryan Kesler made him pay. Hansen and Torres did the rest.

Game 2 is Saturday night at Rogers Arena. The Red Sox have moved their Fenway night game to 1:10 p.m. to allow Bruins fans to watch their team.

Baseball making changes to accommodate hockey. This must be the Stanley Cup finals.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

Correction: Because of incorrect information supplied to the Globe, an earlier version of this story misidentified the Canadian national anthem singer.

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