Saturday, June 11, 2011

'Nucks Push B's to Edge,

With the series tied at two games apiece, Bruins’ nemesis Maxime Lapierre scored the only goal of the game to give the Canucks a 1-0 win and a 3 to 2 series edge. The series now heads back to Boston and the Canucks have two opportunities to win their first Stanley Cup in the franchises’ 40-year history. A sellout crowd of more than 18,000 fans at the Rogers Center cheered on the Canucks as they responded extremely well to being hammered in the previous two games in Boston. Roberto Luongo stopped all 31 shots he faced for his second shutout of the series, coming back strongly after letting in a dozen goals in his previous two games. Tim Thomas was nearly his equal, halting 24 of the 25 he faced to give the Bruins more than a decent opportunity to win the game.

Roberto Luongo got the start for the Canucks after some significant external discussion of whether Corey Schneider would get the start for the team in Blue after Luongo gave up 12 in the previous two games in Boston. The first period saw early chances for each team, with Chris Kelly ringing the post on a two-on-one and Mason Raymond of the Canucks getting robbed by the blocker of Tim Thomas down low. The Bruins benefited from early penalties called against Henrik Sedin and Raffi Torres; however, some excellent and aggressive penalty killing from the Canucks negated both opportunities. The Canucks used the momentum from those successful kills to build a significant physical advantage, taking a 23 to 13 lead in hits to the first intermission.

Roberto Luongo was excellent; making several key stops (including several on the B’s third and final PP of the period) on his way to twelve saves in the first period, apparently regaining the mojo he had in the first two games. Several Vancouver embellishments went uncalled, but late in the period, Bruins fans’ favorite Alex Burrows took Milan Lucic with him on a tripping minor which replays showed was clearly the result of a Burrows dive. Playing four-on-four, the teams went to the locker room after twenty minutes of icetime, tied at no goals apiece. Of note, Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin didn’t take to the ice until over halfway through the period, and totaled less than two minutes of icetime, remarkable considering B’s grinder Greg Campbell received more than two minutes on the PP.

The Canucks came out with some more aggressive physical play to start the second. Tim Thomas made some solid saves to negate some good opportunities, and drew a high-sticking penalty against Ryan Kesler early in the period. His rival across the ice, Luongo wasn’t particularly challenged during the B’s fourth man advantage, and again the Bruins failed to convert. The Canucks drew their first powerplay of the game when Chris Higgins stepped around Adam McQuaid and forced the Bruin to impede him with a hold. The Bruins killed their sixteenth consecutive penalty of the series, and went on the offensive with an extended stay in the Vancouver zone, which was immediately followed by a heart-stopping attack by the Canucks which was barely covered by Thomas and the B’s defense.

The end of the period seemed to be dominated by the Canucks, who won most of the battles and earned a ton of offensive possession. An obstruction penalty to Patrice Bergeron gave the ‘Nucks their second advantage of the game with just over four minutes to go. Some excellent blocked shots and great play by Thomas denied the opportunity, their 17th straight. Both teams failed to score through 40, zero-zero entering the third. Going to the second intermission the Canucks had 36 hits to Boston’s 22.

As the third period began, each team looked to score that one goal that might be the only one each would need to go up 3 to 2 headed back to Boston on Monday. Vancouver finally broke through with a goal from the hated Maxime Lapierre with a nearly no-angle shot that he banked in off of the sprawling Thomas just under five minutes into the third period. Raffi Torres and Kevin Bieksa assisted on the play, which was started due to a failed attempt by Milan Lucic to cover for a defender in the offensive zone. With the pressure on, the Bruins tried to force the play, but were consistently thwarted in the neutral and offensive zones by a Canucks team that seemed to have fresher legs and win all of the battles for the puck. An unnecessary penalty on Rich Peverley with just over seven minutes to go put serious pressure on the Boston squad, not only to successfully defend the man advantage, but also because of the clock, which was now totally on Vancouver’s side. Despite some desperate play from the Bruins down the stretch, they were only able to manage a few more credible opportunities, and as time ran out, the Canucks celebrated their third win, moving them within one of the most prestigious trophy in all sports.

The win by the home team tonight continued a remarkable streak by home teams in recent Stanley Cup Finals, having now won 16 of their past 18 games. Roberto Luongo has allowed two goals at home versus twelve on the road in the series, a remarkable differential. Tim Thomas has allowed a grand total of six goals in his previous six games.

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