TV: NBC (HD), CBC (HD), RDS (HD)
For 59 minutes, 41.5 seconds on Wednesday night, the Canucks and the Bruins were deadlocked in a scoreless tie. They had combined for 69 shots, yet none found the back of the net — thanks, in large part, to strong goaltending performances from Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas. It seemed almost certain that Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was heading to overtime.
However, shot No. 70 was all it took to decide a winner.
With 18.5 seconds remaining in regulation, Canucks forward Raffi Torres slid the puck past a sprawling Thomas to give Vancouver a 1-0 victory — and 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. After the final horn blew, the 18,860 fans that packed Vancouver’s Rogers Arena were ecstatic, waving white towels frantically while cheering loudly for their team, which has never won a Stanley Cup in its 40-year history. The Bruins, meanwhile, were dejected. A gutsy performance against the playoffs’ No. 1 seed — and the best team in the NHL through the regular season — for nearly 60 minutes was not enough.
Bruins: Boston executed its game plan to near perfection in Game 1. Neither Henrik Sedin nor Daniel Sedin — the Canucks’ potent one-two offensive punch — recorded a point. Thomas was spectacular in net, turning aside 33 shots. Vancouver’s normally productive power play was 0-for-6 while Boston’s power play, which has struggled through the first three rounds of the playoffs, generated some solid scoring chances.
In short, the Bruins did everything they needed to do to win the game — except score.
“I think we played a real good road game, to be honest with you,” coach Claude Julien said. “To be in the situation we were after two periods, I didn’t mind it, especially against this hockey club. I thought our PK did a great job against their power play. Timmy made the big saves when he had to. Like I said, for two periods, I was pretty pleased. Obviously, (in the) third period they were the better team and they ended up scoring that goal. It got away from us, but we still got an opportunity here in the next game to hopefully get that one and kind of get the home-ice advantage.”
Canucks: The Canucks didn’t get production from the usual suspects — the Sedin twins, Alexandre Burrows or Ryan Kesler — but that was OK with them. Vancouver got all it needed for a victory from Luongo, steady in net from opening puck drop to final horn, and Torres, a third-liner.
The third line in general was exceptionally strong in Game 1. Along with Torres, forwards Jannik Hansen and Maxim Lapierre combined for 10 hits and 10 shots to keep the Bruins — especially Thomas — on their toes. The last shot, of course, was the most important. Torres converted a beautiful no-look pass from Hansen to score the game-winner.
“[The third and fourth lines have] been great throughout the playoffs and now tonight,” Henrik Sedin told NHL.com after Game 1. “They come up with the goals at the right time. That’s what you need in the playoffs.”
Who’s hot: For Boston, Thomas was the backbone of a strong defensive effort in Game 1. Minus the game-winning goal — scored on an odd-man rush — Thomas was spectacular. He made 33 stops, including a beautiful save on Hansen’s breakaway chance early in the third period He has allowed just one goal in his last two games. … For Vancouver, Luongo won for the sixth time in seven games. He posted 36 saves to record his third shutout of the postseason — all in series openers. Meanwhile Kesler, one of the leading Conn Smythe candidates, tallied an assist on Torres’ goal. Kesler has points in three straight contests, including goals in the Canucks’ final two games of the Western Conference Finals.
Injury report: Vancouver defenseman Dan Hamhuis left Game 1 near the four-minute mark of the second period and did not return after he hip-checked Milan Lucic and was cross-checked immediately following the play by David Krejci. If he can’t go, ex-Bruin Andrew Alberts is likeliest to get the call. Canucks center Manny Malhotra remains day-to-day. Malhotra has been out of Vancouver’s lineup since suffering a left eye injury on March 16. Malhotra was back on the ice for practice on Friday afternoon, and said his status for Game 2 is still up in the air. He plans on taking the morning skate Saturday and the team will make a decision afterward.
Stat pack: Game 1 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final between the Blackhawks and Flyers featured 11 goals on 64 shots. In comparison, Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final featured just a single goal on 70 shots. … Potential good news for the Bruins: The last four teams to lose a game in the Stanley Cup Final 1-0 won the next game. Better news for the Canucks: Of the last 10 teams to win a Final game 1-0, eight have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. … Vancouver is 8-3 in this year’s playoffs at Rogers Arena.
Puck drop: Losing the first game of a series isn’t exactly foreign to the Bruins at this stage of the playoffs. Boston began its first round series by dropping two straight games at home to Montreal while the Bruins also lost their opener to Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals, 5-2.
Said Boston forward Patrice Bergeron: “We came out on the winning side on both series, so yes, we’ve got to stay positive.”