Torres goal is good fortune
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Before the season started, Raffi Torres wasn’t sure where he was going to be playing or whether he was going to be playing in the NHL at all. But when the big forward found a home with the Canucks in late August, he was determined to show his new employer how valuable he could be.
Last night, Torres was the difference in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals when he directed in a pass from Jannik Hansen with 18.5 seconds left in regulation to lift the Canucks to a 1-0 victory.
Ryan Kesler had the puck at the blue line and sprung Hansen and Torres for a two-on-one. Hansen, in the right circle, heard Torres yelling for the puck and threw it his way. It was the only shot of the night to beat Bruins netminder Tim Thomas.
When asked about going from looking for a job over the summer to finals hero, Torres smiled ruefully.
“Thanks for the reminder,’’ he said. “It was a long summer. Obviously, the phone wasn’t ringing off the hook too much. But everything happens for a reason.
“I tried everything within my power to put it behind me and I’ve had some great support along the way. I’m in a very fortunate situation right now for a chance to reach our ultimate goal which is to win the Stanley Cup. It’s been quite a ride.’’
The tally was the result of a heads-up play by Kesler, who was rumored to be suffering from a serious groin strain but who certainly seemed plenty mobile. Kesler said he saw an opportunity to take advantage of a line change by the Bruins.
“I saw an opening to maybe go on the offense,’’ said Kesler. “So our [defenseman], I don’t know who it was, made an unbelievable pass and I just chipped it by their D and held on to it for a little bit and saw Jannik, and Jannik made a great heads-up play to Raffi, and Raffi buried it.’’
Torres said he was lucky to be in the right spot.
“I just tried to get open,’’ he said, “and [Hansen] made a great play to get it over and I was fortunate enough to get it in the back of the net.’’
Kesler and Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo said they appreciated what Torres brought to the team both during the regular season and last night, particularly with the game looking destined for overtime.
“I mean, it was huge,’’ said Luongo, who had 36 saves. “It was just as exciting as an overtime goal.
“There was not a lot of room on the ice, as we saw. At one point, I thought we might be playing all night here. It’s just real exciting, especially for a guy like Torres to get a goal like that. He does a lot of stuff that goes unnoticed. But it’s nice to see a guy like that get rewarded.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault said Torres has important qualities.
“We brought him in because he was an emotional, physical player,’’ said the coach. “He’s had nothing but a great attitude and a great work ethic with us all year long. He comes to play, prepares himself real well.
“We need him to play the way he does. He’s a little bit sometimes outside the box but you’ve got to let him be who he is.’’
And last night he was the hero. But don’t expect Torres or any of the Canucks to get too excited about taking a one-game lead.
“Obviously, Raffi scored some big goals for us lately,’’ said Kesler. “He’s been playing well all playoffs. That’s obviously exciting to score with 18 seconds left. But you know, saying that, we’ve done a good job of forgetting about the past and moving onto the next game. We know the next game is going to be even bigger.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.