The date marks not just his birthday -- he turned 46 years old yesterday, and looks like he could still deliver a Gordie Howe hat trick if his legs would allow it -- but also the anniversary of his trade from the Vancouver Canucks to the Bruins 25 years ago.Tonight, the Bruins made the day memorable for team president Neely for another reason, routing the Canucks, 8-1, in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at the Garden.
The Canucks hold a 2-1 advantage in the series, but every ounce of momentum is with the Bruins heading into Game 4 Wednesday.
Mark Recchi scored twice, including on the no-longer-maligned power-play for the second straight game, Brad Marchand scored a spectacular shorthanded goal (one of two on the night for the Bruins), and Tim Thomas stopped 40 shots as the Bruins put on a show that seemed possible entering the game only in the minds of their most optimistic fans.
After losing two heartbreaking one-goal games to the Canucks in Games 1 and 2 in Vancouver, the Bruins battled their Final nemesis to a draw through the first period tonight. The night did not start well for the Bruins, who lost first-line forward Nathan Horton to injury at the 14:53 mark of the first period after a vicious hit by Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome that left Horton prone on the ice for nearly 10 minutes. Horton was taken to Mass General hospital, where he has movement in all of his extremities, but will be held overnight for observation.
There was concern in the early going not only for Horton, but how he would be replaced in the Bruins' lineup since he has eight goals, including three winners, this postseason. But his teammates answered that question with a four-goal onslaught in the second period.
Defenseman Andrew Ference started the scoring 11 seconds into the period -- coincidentally, it was 11 seconds into overtime Saturday that Alex Burrows scored to beat the Bruins in Game 2. Then it was the rejuvenated Rechhi on the power play at 4:22, Marchand's shorthanded goal at 11:30, and David Krejci punctuated the explosive second-period performance with his NHL-leading 11th goal of the postseason at 15:47.
The Bruins continued the onslaught in the third period, scoring four more times on suddenly shaky Canucks star goalie Roberto Luongo, who stopped 30 of 38 shots. Daniel Paille (shorthanded), Recchi, Chris Kelly, and Michael Ryder (power play) did the scoring honors in the third for the Bruins, who gave Neely a heck of a present.
Final score: Bruins 8, Canucks 1: And it's officially a series. Mark Recchi scored twice, six other Bruins found the net, and Tim Thomas made 40 saves as the Bruins clobbered Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final tonight, 8-1. What a spectacular performance all-around by the Bruins, who scored twice shorthanded, twice on the power play, and gained all the momentum heading into Game 4 Wednesday. We'll be back with more momentarily.
19:29: Bruins 8, Canucks 1: Spoke too soon, Michael Ryder adds what we really think is the punctuation mark. Wonder if this is going to carry over for Luongo.
18:06, Bruins 7, Canucks 1: Chris Kelly adds what we think is the puntuation mark, beating Luongo again. Paille, who has played a spectacular game, made it happen.
17:39 third period, Bruins 6, Canucks 1: Mark Recchi gets his second goal of the night and third in two games. R-O-U-T.
13:53 third period, Bruins 5, Canucks 1: The Canucks get one back on a nice cross-ice feed from Raffi Torres to Jannik Hansen. File under: Too little, way too late.
11:38 third period, Bruins 5, Canucks 0: If there had been any question remaining, the rout is officially on. Daniel Paille scores his third of the postseason, breaking in shorthanded, fending off a pair of Canucks defensemen, and while sprawling head-first, slides the puck past Luongo.
11:16: If you're a Bruins fan, you couldn't have imagined Game 3 going any better than this. The lastest evidence: Milan Lucic pointing his finger in Alex Burrows's face after a scrum (daring him to bite it, perhaps?), then Dennis Seidenberg and Ryan Kesler dropping the gloves and wrestling each other to the ground. Every one of the Bruins has shown up tonight.
10:00: Thomas smothers a Chris Higgins bid on a mini-breakaway. Brilliant night for the Bruins goalie.
9:11: Kesler off for boarding. Bruins will have a power play for 1:13 if they kill off the last 10 seconds of Thornton's penalty.
7:58: Starting to get a little feisty here. Daniel Sedin and Ference get 10-minute misconduct penalties, while Shawn Thornton is also hit with a 10-minute misconduct for roughing. His penalty will be served by Michael Ryder. Vancouver is 0 for 6 on the power play and down a Sedin.
6:49: Henrick Sedin gets his best look of the night after a turnover in front, but Tim Thomas blasts him out of the crease, and while he's down, Dennis Seidenberg gives him a sly tap of the stick. Seconds later, Daniel Sedin puts Andrew Ference in a brief chokehold, leading to a brief scrum.
5:16: Michael J. Fox draws a huge roar when he's shown on the scoreboard. At some point Canucks fans will catch on that the British Columbia native is a Bruins fan because of his friendship with Neely.
3:46: Thomas makes it look easy with a glove save on a Christian Ehrhoff one-timer. Thirty-four saves so far for the the Bruins netminder.
3:33: Chara and Alex Burrows both hit with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
2:50: Ryder sent off for roughing.
Start of the third period, Bruins 4, Canucks 0: Roberto Luongo remains in net for the Canucks. Thought former BC netminder Cory Schneider might give Luongo the rest of the night off with a four-goal deficit.
Second intermission: A couple of quick stats: Ryan Kesler is minus-3 for the Canucks and has been on the ice for all four goals. Hard to believe he's had a game this ineffective all season . . . With four goals in the second period, the Bruins finished one shy of the Stanley Cup Final record for goals in a period, set by the '42 Leafs, '73 Blackhawks, and '94 Canucks) . . . The Bruins have an 8-1 record when scoring the first goal this postseason . . . Seidenberg continues to lead the Bruins with 18:16 of ice time . . . the Bruins have 33 hits so far. They had 31 in each of the first two games. Ference leads the way in Canuck-bruising with six hits . . . Patrice Bergeron is 6 for 6 on faceoffs, while David Krejci is 5 for 6, but the Canucks have won 24 of 37 overall.
End of second period, Bruins 4, Canucks 0: Well, if a Bruins fan drew up an ideal period of play, it would probably look quite a bit like that. Mark Recchi scores a power play goal, Brad Marchand scores a dazzling shorthanded goal, David Krejci scores his postseason-high 12th, and Andrew Ference gets it all started with an ice breaker that serves as a reminder why Vancouver doesn't entirely trust gold-medal-winning goalie Roberto Luongo. The Bruins dominated on special teams, Tim Thomas faced just enough challenges to keep sharp, and suddenly all the Canucks fans in Boston might be wonder if all that loot they shelled out to come here is worth it. The Canucks will begin the third on the power play for a minute and 36 seconds, while the Bruins will be looking to carry all of their momentum from the momentous second period into the third.
18:00 Marchand tangles with Ryan Kesler after the whistle, the first real confirmation tonight that Kesler is indeed on the ice.
17:36: Johnny Boychuk gets a four-minute double minor for high sticking the Canucks' Victor Oreskovich. A decent chance here for Vancouver to stem the tide.
17:15: Krejci is now the NHL playoff leader with 11 goals.
15:47, Bruins 4, Canucks 0: And the Bruins continue to pour it on. David Krejci gets his 11th goal of the playoffs, rifling a rebound from the right faceoff circle past a suddenly shaky Luongo. Krejci ended up with the rebound right on his stick after Luongo deflected a shot from the slot by Michael Ryder, who stickhandled into shooting position around a Canucks defenseman. Zdeno Chara also picked up an assist. The Canucks are outshooting the Bruins, 24-20, but make no mistake. This game has been all Bruins since Horton's injury.
11:30, Bruins 3, Canucks 0: . . . and Brad Marchand makes sure the Bruins keep the momentum with a sensational individual effort that will be on all the highlight packages at the end of the playoffs. Outmaneuvering two Canucks for the puck in the neutral zone, he reverses direction, flips the puck off the right boards past Edler, breaks in on Luongo and waits for him to commit before flipping the puck over his pads at the left post for his seventh goal of the playoffs. The Bruins' special teams have been spectacular tonight, and no play signifies that more than Marchand's play right there.
10:30: Lucic sent off for slashing. Bruins still have all the momentum.
8:22: Fantastic penalty kill by the Bruins, limiting Vancouver to just a couple of harmless shots while generating a couple of decent shorthanded chances by Gregory Campbell and David Paille. The energy in the building and on the ice is palpable right now.
8:10: Scoring change on the second goal. Recchi gets credit -- it's his fourth of the playoffs and second on the power play in the past two games -- while Ryder and Ference get the assists. So in a way, Ference picked up an assist while sitting in the penalty box.
6:22 Ference gets two minutes of solitary for tripping Alexandre Burrows. The Canucks are 0 for 1 on the power play so far.
4:22, second period, Bruins 2, Canucks 0: Who says the Bruins don't have a power play? The Bruins capitalize on Jeff Tambellini's hooking penalty at the 2:42 mark when Rich Peverley scores his third of the postseason. He punched the puck between Luongo's pads after taking a nice feed from Michael Ryder. The Bruins moved the puck nicely on that power play, with Mark Recchi also picking up an assist.
0:11, second period, Bruins 1, Canucks 0: If you had Andrew Ference as the player who would score first tonight, congratulations. The Bruins defenseman notched his third goal of the playoffs on a play that initiated when Canucks defenseman Alex Edler's pass trickled off his stick to David Krejci, who immediately broke in gloveside on Roberto Luongo. His shot richocheted around the boards to Rich Peverley -- replacing the injured Nathan Horton on the top line -- and he quickly fed Ference for a one-timer from just inside the blue line that wobbled past Luongo. What is it about goals 11 seconds into periods in this series, anyway?
First intermission: A couple of quick stats: The Bruins lead the Canucks in hits, 15-14. Andrew Ference has three to lead the Bruins, while a trio of Canucks (Ryan Kesler, Raffi Torres, Jeff Tambellini) have two. Patrick Bergeron is 5 for 5 on faceoffs and David Krejci is 4 for 5, while Henrik Sedin is 0 for 4 for the Canucks, who have lost nine of 13. Dennis Seidenberg, who might be a robot, has played a Bruins-high 8 minutes and 43 seconds. Alex Edler leads Vancouver with 8:13 of ice time.
This is the 10th time this postseason the Bruins have been held without a goal in the first period. They are 4-5 in those games. The Canucks are 4-0 this postseason after playing a scoreless first period, and are 7-3 in games in which they've entered the second period without a goal.
End of first period, Bruins 0, Canucks 0: The big news of an eventful but scoreless first period is the injury to Bruins forward Nathan Horton, who has eight goals this postseason, including three winners. Horton was belted by Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome at the 5:07 mark and had to be carted off the ice and taken to Mass General. The Bruins reported he is moving all extremities, posting the update on the scoreboard here at the Garden. How the Bruins replace him on the ice tonight remains to be seen. Michael Ryder took his place on the first line alongside Milan Lucic and David Krejci.
The Canucks have outshot the Bruins, 12-7, but the hosts played a strong first period. Tim Thomas made two sensational saves near the 2-minute mark on Mason Raymond, and the Bruins' power play got six shots (all of them decent opportunities) on the 5-minute man-advantage for Rome's penalty. If they can play the final 40 minutes with the intensity of the first period, Bruins fans should feel good about their chances.
17:06: The Bruins announced Horton has been taken to Mass General and is moving his arms and legs. Sorry for the lack of updates -- TD Garden wireless is brutal. Catching up, Vancouver killed off the penalty -- Mark Recchi had a couple of a good chances on the power play -- then the Bruins killed off a penalty on Andrew Ference. Recchi has given Vancouver's Maxim Lapierre at least two face-washes that we've seen (we're betting he goes for the face-wash hat trick), and Tim Thomas has been absolutely sensational in the last few minutes as Vancouver has outshot the Bruins, 12-7.
5:07: Frightening scene at the Garden at the moment. Bruins forward Nathan Horton, skating down the middle into the Vancouver zone, was blindsided by Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome and crumbled awkwardly to the ice, his arm pointed skyward. The Bruins training staff tended to him for nearly 10 minutes before he was carted off the ice. Rome was given a five-minute interference penalty and a game misconduct. We'll keep you updated right here when we hear more about Horton's condition.
First period: Mr. Rancourt has about 17,500 dedicated backup singers tonight. Beautiful. And we're ready to go, with the Marchand-Bergeron-Recchi trio out there to get the Bruins started.
Pregame: If you're into karma and symmetry, then you'll like the Bruins' choice for the former player to bring out the fan banner tonight -- it's none other than franchise all-time playoff goals leader Cam Neely, currently the team president. Neely was acquired from the Canucks 25 years ago today. It also happens to be his 46th birthday today. A win tonight would surely make the perfect gift.
Pregame: Rookie Tyler Seguin, who did not register any statistic on the scoresheet in Game 2 other than minutes played, is scratched for the Bruins, with Shawn Thornton inserted on fourth-line duty. Beware, Maxim Lapierre.
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It's a Stanley Cup playoffs adage so familiar that it long since has become a cliche.
A series hasn't really begun until the home team loses a game.
Of course, like most cliches, it originated as a keen insight. And tonight, the Boston Bruins, home at TD Garden at last after dropping the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final at Vancouver, will do their best to keep the series from beginning tonight.
The Bruins have found consistent success on the Garden ice this postseason, winning 7 of 10 games -- and perhaps more tellingly, 7 of 8 after dropping their first two games of the Montreal series at home.
Almost immediately after their 3-2 overtime loss to the Canucks Saturday at Rogers Arena, the Bruins cited their ability to comeback from that 0-2 deficit against Montreal as a reason they can do it here.
It won't be easy against the potent Canucks, who are 5-3 on the road this postseason. But if there's anything we've learned for sure about the 2010-11 Bruins, it's that they're a resilient lot. Maybe they will delay the unofficial start of this series, if you catch the drift, until they are on Vancouver ice,
The Who's "Baba O'Riley" is blaring over the P.A. system. The crowd is already playoff-level loud, though there are more than a few Canucks jerseys dotting the seats. It's almost time to drop the puck. Stay right here for live updates all throughout the game.