VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Compared to the US greenback, the Canadian dollar is the strongest it has been in years. Just ask the Bruins. They’ve played three times here in the last 10 days, only to find their game has little currency once beyond the cozy confines of the Causeway Street Vault.
And last night, they went bankrupt for a second time, a 1-0 loss to the Canucks, cut down on Max Lapierre’s goal — set up by a ricochet off the rear boards — with 4:35 gone in the third period. The win gave the Canucks a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final and they now have two cracks at landing the first championship in the franchise’s 40-year-history. The first will be Monday night, Game 6, at the Garden.
“A lot of what you saw tonight you saw in the first two games here,’’ said Boston coach Claude Julien, referring to his club’s 1-0 and 3-2 losses at Rogers Arena at the start of the series. “Good effort . . . but not good enough.’’
All in all, the better team won again, as has been the case in all five games. The only significant difference to be detected over this series is that the Bruins play much better than the Canucks when the games are held in Boston. Here in bucolic B.C., the ever-hard-working Bruins can keep the score close, never be embarrassed, but they have yet to find a way to outduel the speedier — and last night hungrier — Canucks.
“Certainly,’’ added Julien, “we didn’t work as hard tonight as we did in the last two games.’’
Games 3-4 had the Bruins blowing out the Canucks, 8-1 and 4-0, clearly sparked by Aaron Rome’s headhunting shot on Nathan Horton in the first period in Game 3. They made the most of that emotional charge while on home ice. Here, they seemed to forget that all roads lead to Rome, clearly allowing the Canucks to set the tone for physical play (Exhibit A: Vancouver with a 47-27 margin in hits).
Truth is, however, the Bruins could have taken early control, in part because Vancouver’s clear intent was to pound them into submission. All that hitting brought three penalties against the Canucks in the opening 15 minutes. Had the Bruins been able to do anything with those six minutes on the man-advantage — anything other than chase their own tail — then the complexion of the game might have changed.
When the night was over, the Bruins stood a grim 8 for 82 on the power play this postseason and the futility may very well have cost them the chance to move ahead for the first time in this series. Now they have to hope they get another chance at taking the series advantage, but first they have to win Game 6 and hope to return here Wednesday for a winner-take-all Game 7.
“In the end, it’s a loss, so it doesn’t really matter how much you lose by,’’ said veteran Boston blue liner Dennis Seidenberg. “Game 7, that’s a crapshoot, anything can happen . . . but in order to get there, we have to play a solid Game 6.’’
The loss here was delivered on a Kevin Bieksa drive from the right point that went far wide of the near post, banged off the rear boards, and found Lapierre left unguarded by Seidenberg in the left faceoff circle. The ex-Habs dive artist collected the ricochet, looked for his spot, and popped it in the open left side. Earlier in the night, Lapierre tried to beg a call from the referees when he dropped to the ice as if poleaxed when Zdeno Chara tapped him.
“I did have to find it through traffic,’’ said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, noting he was screened on Bieksa’s drive and that Lapierre didn’t get the full shot he wanted. “So that was maybe one-10th of a second I didn’t have [to cover Lapierre’s shot].’’
One shot. One goal. All the difference.
Down the other end, the Bruins landed 31 shots on Roberto Luongo, but the big Canucks goalie wasn’t overly taxed. It was by no means the assault the Bruins put on him in Boston, where he allowed 12 goals and was finally hooked in Game 4 when the score reached 4-0. Thomas, watching from the other end, concurred that his counterpart didn’t have a difficult night. The Bruins lacked the necessary drive to the net that might have led to follow-up shots, and overall there was little meaningful action down low or around the slot.
Boston’s best chance all night actually wasn’t recorded as a shot. With 4:05 gone in the first, Chris Kelly beat Luongo from the right circle with a sizzling wrister, only top see it bang off the iron.
Now it’s back to Causeway Street, where the Cup will be in the house because the Canucks have the chance to take it home on their team charter. For the Bruins to win their first Cup since ’72, they’ll have to survive Monday, board a flight to return here on Tuesday, then hope to party like it was 1972 (their last Cup, won at Madison Square Garden).
Based on what’s happened here so far, no one would want to bet a buck — be it American or Canadian — on their chances.