2011 NHL Stanley Cup Finals Game 3 - Boston 8, Vancouver 1 – Canucks lead series, 2-1
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Two of the three top goaltenders in the NHL during the regular season were displaying their very best form. Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo had come this far after reams of postseason failures; the netminders for the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks had no intentions whatsoever of letting down their teammates on the opening night of the Stanley Cup Finals. Sure enough, the veteran goalies stood on their heads, and so it was that as the final half-minute of regulation arrived at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, almost everyone in the hockey world began to mentally prepare for a scoreless tie after 60 minutes. The community of puckheads in the United States and Canada was ready to embrace an overtime period – or two, or three – without the presence of a single goal on the scoreboard.
Then came a bolt from the blue, as the team that beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals was struck down by a flash of brilliance from the boys in Vancouver blue.
Raffi Torres – not the most hockey-like name you’ve ever heard – scored on a pass from Jannik Hansen with 18.5 seconds left in the third period, as the Canucks did something much more than take the opening game of the Cup finals. They denied the Bruins on a night when Thomas came oh-so-close to stealing a game and shifting the shape of the series.
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The conventional wisdom before Game 1 was that Thomas needed to steal two games for Boston to have a legitimate chance to win the series. Vancouver is a deeper and more physical team than Boston. The Canucks thoroughly commanded their last two playoff series after a first-round scare against Chicago, while Boston – which swept Philadelphia in round two – was pushed for most of the playoffs. The Bs barely nudged both Montreal and Tampa Bay in seven-game deathmatches, revealing their grit but also their flaws. Vancouver came into these finals with the superior weapons and the more superabundant resources. It was up to Thomas to keep his team competitive while Vancouver carried the run of play. For 59 minutes and 41 seconds on Wednesday, the 37-year-old goalie did exactly that.
Then, in an instant, his bid to snatch Game 1 from Vancouver’s grasp evaporated.
Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler somehow managed to stay onside as he picked up a loose puck along the left board in the Boston zone an outmaneuvered a Bruin defender. Kesler whipped the puck to the right face-off circle, where Hansen sped in, drew another Boston defender, and guided a simple, clean pass to Torres, who was racing up the left side near the goal crease. Torres calmly deposited the puck past a sprawling Thomas, who had no chance on the play. With just a fraction under 19 seconds remaining, all hopes of overtime – precisely the context in which a road underdog can steal a game – were dashed on the Boston bench. Vancouver took Thomas’s very best shot and lived to tell about it. That puts Boston in a huge hole for Game 2 on Saturday night.
Boston was close to stealing a win, but Vancouver policed itself well. If the Bruins can’t take the law into their own hands this weekend, we could be in for a rather short series.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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