Playing lost and found
As lost as the Canucks looked last night, the Bruins looked found.
For all that the Canucks refused to push back, lacked in pluck and strut, the Bruins pushed and poked and pounded and scored.
Minus their first-line right winger, the concussed Nathan Horton, the Bruins plugged Rich Peverley into his spot and watched the ex-St. Lawrence spitfire turn into a pint-sized version of a power forward.
There are nights when it all goes right (see: Bruins) and nights when it all goes wrong (see: Canucks), and the focus of the “right’’ last night in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final was the a-little-of-this-and-a-little-of-that line of Milan Lucic-David Krejci-and mostly Peverley. We say mostly because Michael Ryder had a good number of looks there, too, but Ryder was with Tyler Seguin and Chris Kelly when he stuck home the 2-0 lead in the second period.
When it was over, Peverley had two goals — the 1-0 starter in the first and the 4-0 jawbreaker in the third — and the Lucic-Krejci-Peverley trio had 2-3—5 totals and 10 shots. Not a bad night for a bunch of guys who didn’t know for sure that they would play together until the pregame warm-ups.
“I’m not going to replace Nathan Horton,’’ said Peverley, surprised to see Horton in the dressing room after the 4-0 win, and humbled when Horton handed him the club’s now-sacred working man’s jacket at night’s end. “All I can do is go out there and play my game.’’
Peverley, one of the club’s trade deadline acquisitions at the end of February, has a game built on speed. He also has a sizzling shot, one he doesn’t often get to unleash.
Last night, he knocked a doorstep shot through Roberto Luongo’s five-hole, barreling in over the blue line on a short feed from Krejci for the 1-0 lead at 11:59 of the first. He then raced in again, this time without the puck, and played pinball bumper post at the left of the crease, picking up the 4-0 goal off Lucic’s deft feed from the right side.
“Pev’s got good speed,’’ said Claude Julien, the first Bruins coach since Don Cherry in 1978 to have his club but two wins away from a Stanley Cup championship. “Their line forechecks pretty well with Lucic on one side. We thought we’d keep that going. He still has pretty decent hands. We thought we’d start with that.’’
As it turned out, Julien started with it and finished with it. Ryder was mixed in, but the “click’’ between the new No. 1 trio was obvious from the beginning. They’ll be back together again for Game 5 tomorrow night in Vancouver, where a win would position the Bruins for a possible Cup clincher on home ice Monday — what could be the first Cup won on Causeway Street since Mother’s Day 1970, when Bobby Orr swept in Derek Sanderson’s dish.
Ryder, meanwhile, was the recipient of a swift dish from Seguin in the second period, setting up Ryder’s seventh goal of the postseason. And it was that goal that really had to have the Canucks seriously doubting Luongo, their franchise goaltender.
Ryder ripped off a wrister from the top of the left wing circle, right in front of a stick-checking Sami Salo, and the gargantuan Luongo fanned at the shot with his big left catching glove. Nothing but net. And nothing but a sinking feel for the Western Conference champs. Cup-winning goalies have to make that stop. The 2-0 lead on the board, it was all the Canucks could do to match the Bruins shot for shot (17-17) the rest of the way. Chased out on Peverley’s second goal, Luongo spent the final 16:21 looking despondent at the end of the bench.
The reconfigured lineup allowed Julien’s anchor line, with Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi, to remain intact. Marchand, the new-age Little Ball of Hate (once Pat Verbeek’s moniker), potted his eighth of the postseason with a top-of-the-crease backhander that made it 3-0 in the second. The goal came with Keith Ballard fumbling the puck at the side of the net. Ballard saw his first action of the series, plugged in for Aaron Rome, the defenseman kicked out of the playoffs for his wanton hit to the head that ended Horton’s playoffs because of a severe concussion.
Marchand’s most remarkable work, though, came in the seconds leading up to the 17:33 mark of the third period. He barreled down the left side and upended Christian Ehrhoff with an upper-body twist (holding), then sent Daniel Sedin flying with a nasty hip check (tripping) while avoiding Sedin’s attempt to crush him into the rear boards, and then he picked up another deuce (roughing) for a scrap with Ballard. For extra measure, he was tagged with a 10-minute misconduct. That’s a lot of hate.
Depth. Most of all, the night was about that. Peverley and Kelly were the two forwards general manager Peter Chiarelli acquired at the end of February to provide the kind of reliability and knowledge among the forwards that hasn’t existed here in years. The remaining weeks of the regular season had both forwards providing little production, but that has changed considerably since the drop of the puck in the postseason.
And last night, with Peverley the go-to guy for the guy now gone (Horton), it all worked as ordered straight from the GM’s Official Guide and Repair Book. The Canucks look lost. The Bruins look found. Both teams stand two wins away, but the Bruins look a lot closer.