Bruins skating home with Stanley Cup - NBC Sports

Bruins skating home with Stanley Cup
Boston wins Game 7 on road for first NHL championship since '72; playoff MVP Thomas blanks title-less Canucks 4-0
June 16, 2011, 5:06 am

While the Boston Bruins beelined across the ice to mob him at the buzzer, Tim Thomas tapped both goalposts, sank to his knees and rubbed the ice in front of his empty goal.

Thomas drew a virtual line in his crease throughout these crazy, contentious Stanley Cup finals, and Boston's brilliant goalie just wouldn't allow the Vancouver Canucks to cross it whenever it really mattered.

After 39 years without a championship, the Bruins ripped the Cup - and several thousand hearts - out of a Canadian city that has waited four decades itself for one sip.

Thomas was just too good, and the Bruins are the NHL's best.

The Cup is headed back to the Hub of Hockey.

"I think I went even further than I thought," Thomas said. "I was scared, I won't lie. I had nerves yesterday and today, and I faked it as best as I could, and I faked it all the way to the Stanley Cup."

Nice try, Tim. There's nothing fake about Thomas, who limited the NHL's highest-scoring team to eight goals in the seven-game finals, blanking Vancouver in two of the last four - including Game 7, the only win by a road team in the series.

The oldest Conn Smythe Trophy winner in NHL history stopped a jaw-dropping 238 of the Canucks' 246 shots in the finals for a .967 save percentage. That's even better than his .940 mark and 1.98 goals-against average for the entire postseason.

"If I was going to do it any way, it would have to be the hardest way possible," said Thomas, who played overseas and in the minors before finally getting his NHL break in 2005. "Three Game 7s in the playoffs, and to have to win it on the road in the final."

The postgame celebration in downtown Vancouver was uglier, with fans setting cars on fire, throwing bottles, trashing cars and staging bonfires while riot police dispersed them with truncheons and shields. The crowd appeared bigger than the estimated 100,000 fans that gathered for Game 5, and the riot raged for hours after the Bruins raised the Cup.

Bergeron stunned the Vancouver crowd with the first goal, getting the eventual game-winner in the first period. His short-handed score late in the second period put the Bruins up 3-0, turning the third period into a virtual wake for the Canucks, who have never won the Stanley Cup in nearly 41 years of existence.

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Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' 6-foot-9 captain, nearly slipped under the Stanley Cup's weight when he skated away from Commissioner Gary Bettman. And the shiny silver trophy eventually got a lift from Nathan Horton, the injured Boston forward whose Game 3 concussion on a late hit irrevocably swung the series' momentum to Boston.

Horton traveled to Vancouver for Game 7 and worked to give the Bruins a home-ice advantage, pouring a bottle of Boston water onto the ice in front of the Bruins' bench 90 minutes before warmups.

"I was just trying to get some Garden ice here and make it our ice," Horton said. "I was trying to be sneaky about it."

"Their goaltender was real tough to beat," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "The way they played in front of him was real tough to beat. We had some Grade A chances, and we were unable to score."

Thomas thoroughly outplayed and outclassed his Vancouver counterpart: Star goalie Roberto Luongo gave up 18 goals in the last five games of the finals. Despite a pregame walk on the Vancouver seawall in his special mind-clearing ritual, the enigmatic netminder capped a brutally inconsistent series by allowing Bergeron's crushing short-handed goal to slip underneath him late in the second period.

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Game 7 was another heartbreak for the Canucks and their stunned fans, who stayed by the thousands just to get a glimpse of the trophy. A Canadian club still hasn't won the Stanley Cup since 1993.

"Anybody in our situation right now would feel real disappointed, whether you're the favorite or not," Vigneault said. "We battled real hard. We gave it our best shot. This one game, they were the better team. It's that simple."

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Game 7 capped a spectacular collapse by Luongo, who backstopped Canada to Olympic gold medals on this same ice sheet a year ago. Luongo was pulled from the Canucks' last two games in Boston after giving up 15 goals on the road, and he was fatally shaky in Game 7.

Luongo praised his own positional game earlier in the series, but he didn't recover in time to stop Marchand's second-period goal. Five minutes later, he couldn't close his legs on a slowly sliding puck on Bergeron's goal - the seventh allowed by Luongo on the last 21 shots he faced dating back to Game 4.

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But Luongo wasn't alone in deserving Vancouver's blame: The Sedin twins are the NHL's last two scoring champions, but they capped a disastrous finals by being on the ice for all four of Boston's goals. Captain Henrik Sedin, last season's MVP, scored just one goal in the series, while Daniel Sedin had two goals and two assists, scoring in just two of the seven games.

"It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, and to lose made it even harder," said Vancouver center Ryan Kesler, a 41-goal scorer who managed just one assist in the finals while struggling with an obvious injury.

Boston overcame more than the Vancouver crowd and the Presidents' Trophy-winning team to claim this Cup. Starting in the first round, when the Bruins rallied past Montreal after losing the series' first two games at home, this team has showed a resilience and tenacity that hasn't been seen much in the self-professed Hub of Hockey in four decades.

Both teams opened Game 7 at a fantastic pace. After both teams' top lines missed decent early scoring chances, Bergeron put the Bruins ahead with a one-timer in the slot on a sharp pass from Marchand, the rookie who has emerged remarkably in the finals. Luongo couldn't be blamed for his teammates' soft checking when Bergeron's shot caught the goalpost and ricocheted home.

Bergeron, who won a gold medal with Canada on this same rink last year, hadn't scored a goal in Boston's last nine playoff games, including the entire finals.

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Rogers Arena deflated with that score, and the Canucks' suddenly problematic power play allowed Bergeron essentially to finish them off. He got a loose puck at his blue line and outskated two Canucks toward Luongo, and the puck skittered underneath the goalie while Bergeron went to the ice.

Thomas was unflappable in the third period, and Marchand added an empty-net goal with 2:44 to play.

Notes: The Rogers Arena crowd vociferously booed Bettman when he stepped on the ice, but the fans cheered wildly for Vancouver native Milan Lucic. ... Chara is the second European born-and-trained captain to raise the Stanley Cup, joining Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom. ... Bruins D Dennis Seidenberg had two assists. He is the second German to earn a spot on the Stanley Cup, joining Uwe Krupp. ... The NBA finals ended before the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 2002, when the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Detroit Red Wings to their respective titles.

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