Getting great mileage out of this wild ride
You really didn’t think this was going to end any other way did you? This Stanley Cup Final is going the full Phil Esposito, a glorious No. 7.
The Stanley Cup is racking up some frequent flier miles, making the cross-continent trip to Vancouver after the Bruins scored a season-saving 5-2 victory over the Canucks last night in Game 6 at TD Garden.
For the first time in franchise history, the Bruins will play a Game 7 with the Stanley Cup at stake, after they made sure that the final game at TD Garden this season was not their last of this memorable ride.
If we’ve learned anything about this Bruins bunch, it’s that they’re a hockey club that you can’t ever count out. When the ice chips are down, they play their best.
Down 0-2 against Montreal heading to the Habs’ house of horrors? No problem. Blow a three-goal lead against the Lightning with an opportunity to go up 3-1 in the Eastern Conference finals? Yawn. Need to win a tense Game 7 at home to go to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1990? Done.
“We had our backs against the wall tonight and the guys came out and did a great job,’’ said veteran Mark Recchi, who had three assists. “We’ve been resilient all year with stuff like that. It seems like when we get backed into a corner, we fight back pretty hard and now we’ve been in some Game 7 situations . . . and we’ve responded with a couple of our best games. Now, we’ve got to play our best game.’’
There was no way they were letting the unctuous Canucks cart the Cup around their ice. That was not going to be the denouement of this season.
That possibility wasn’t in question for long, much like the game, which was over less than halfway through the first period, when the Bruins had a 4-0 lead and glib Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo was on the bench.
Luongo’s style might be to stay closer to his net than Tim Thomas, but he wasn’t in it for very long last night. Luongo was yanked by coach Alain Vigneault after only 8 minutes and 35 seconds after allowing three quick goals.
The Bruins scored two in a 35-second span in the first period against Luongo. Mighty-mite Brad Marchand raced up the right wing and blasted a shot from inside the right faceoff circle that beat Luongo short-side, top-shelf to give Boston a 1-0 lead just 5:31 in. It was the ninth goal of the postseason for Marchand, a new franchise rookie record.
Before the scoring could be announced the Bruins struck again. Rich Peverley left a drop pass for Milan Lucic whose wrister trickled through the pads of Luongo.
The night ended for Luongo after just eight shots, the last of which was a long-distance power-play goal off the stick of Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference.
Michael Ryder popped a Tomas Kaberle shot past Luongo’s relief, Cory Schneider, 1 minute and 10 seconds later. That made it four goals in a Stanley Cup-record span of 4:14, eclipsing the Montreal mark of 5:29 in the 1956 Cup Final.
Still, there were a few anxious moments for the Spoked-Believers in the third period. Henrik Sedin, who had been pointless in the series, finally beat Thomas on a power-play backhander just 22 seconds into the third period to make it 4-1. Then at 3:17, Jannik Hansen’s shot hit the inside of the left post and bounced out.
The Bruins then sealed the seventh game when David Krejci netted his playoff-leading 12th goal with a 5-on-3 power-play strike at 6:59 of the third.
“We got a lot of character in this room. Everybody seems to step up at the right time,’’ said Ryder. “We’ve been in a couple of series now where it came down to one game. We just know how to react to it. I think tonight we did a great job of we don’t let our emotions get the best of us. We stay calm, but play with a lot of intensity. We got to make sure we have the same work ethic and effort [tomorrow].’’
This has been an odd, yet predictable, series. Every game has been won by the home team. Vancouver played three games at the Garden, got outscored, 17-3, and never led for a single second. Yet, they could still hoist the hallowed hardware because they’ve gone unbeaten at Rogers Arena.
The Bruins have been the bi-polar bears, dominant at home and snake-bitten and goal-starved in British Columbia. Perhaps they should don the home sweaters for Game 7.
Tomorrow night at Rogers Arena the Bruins will try to become the third team to hoist the Cup after going down 0-2 since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format in 1939, joining the Dryden-guided Canadiens of 1971 and the 2009 Penguins.
A Bruins’ quest that started here April 14 against the Canadiens will end in British Columbia against the Canucks tomorrow night. After 24 games, two-plus months of hirsute hockey and an innumerable amount of sweat, it all comes down to one game.
The Bruins wouldn’t have it any other way. This team and this series were destined to go to the limit.
After waiting 39 years for a Stanley Cup, what’s one more game?