The way its caretakers view it, the spoked-B represents a philosophy as much as a team. For as long as the organization has been in existence, the Bruins have been about hard work, emotion, pride, and teamwork.
Especially when a brother goes down.
At 5:07 of the first period last night, a late, blindside wallop by Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome left Nathan Horton flat on the ice, his right arm aiming skyward in a sickly fashion. Rome’s hit and its stomach-turning consequences — Horton was carried off on a stretcher and transported to Massachusetts General Hospital — only deepened the Bruins’ commitment to upholding what their brand is all about.
“I think it definitely made us realize that we all needed to pick it up and step up for him,’’ Daniel Paille said. “He’s been great for us all playoffs. Obviously, to lose him at this point hurts us. It was nice to see us all come out.’’
It was no coincidence, then, that the Bruins played their sharpest after one of their best players went down. After a scoreless first period, the Bruins busted Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final open in the second with four strikes — two even-strength, one on the power play, and another shorthanded — while executing the game plan that has always been in their DNA.
They punished the Canucks. They smothered their best players. They turned to their goaltender to make timely stops. And whenever the Canucks were clinging to the cliff’s edge, the Bruins, without a shred of mercy, stomped on their fingers and sent them to an 8-1 demise.
There were countless stars. Tim Thomas (40 saves) was one stop away from a shutout. Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg helped turn Henrik and Daniel Sedin into the Doublemint Twins (two total shots). Mark Recchi scored two goals.
But at night’s end, the game jacket presented after every win to the player who contributes the most hadn’t moved. Horton was its last owner, courtesy of his winning goal in the 1-0 win over Tampa Bay in Game 7 of the conference finals. Last night, the jacket remained in Horton’s stall.
“Guys were a little nervous about Horty and worried about him,’’ Brad Marchand said of the mood after the first period. “We still had a game to play. We really wanted to get the win tonight. We made sure to refocus and do it for him.’’
In Games 1 and 2, the Bruins treated the puck as if it were pyrite instead of platinum. They fumbled it away in the neutral zone. They didn’t dump the puck into areas where their forwards could hunt it down. They didn’t get enough speed rolling through center ice to make the Vancouver defensemen backtrack.
All that changed last night. The Bruins treated the puck with love. Whenever it was off their sticks, they were desperate to get it back. After Horton was wheeled off, the Bruins made it their primary action to bury the Canucks. Not for revenge, but to set the tone, make them hear footsteps, and send their faces into the glass all with one purpose in mind: make them scared to play the puck.
After an untimely stick snap by Alexander Edler — the defenseman’s twig broke shortly after the opening faceoff of the second — the Bruins went on the attack. Rich Peverley, taking a shift in Horton’s spot on the first line, pressured the puck, then got it to Andrew Ference. The defenseman sent a long-distance shot that appeared to deflect off traffic and carom past Roberto Luongo at 0:11 of the period.
That triggered the avalanche. Shawn Thornton drew a hooking penalty on Jeff Tambellini. On the power play, Michael Ryder sent a perfect cross-ice seam pass to Mark Recchi. The alternate captain tried to hit Peverley at the other side of the crease, but Ryan Kesler deflected the puck past Luongo.
The third goal was the killer, although it didn’t look promising for the Bruins at the time. At 10:30, Milan Lucic was called for slashing.
With a power-play goal, the Canucks could have made it 2-1. Instead, a minute after going on the power play, the puck was behind Luongo after Marchand abused Vancouver’s best players.
First, Marchand stripped Daniel Sedin of the puck in center ice. Marchand then whirred through the neutral zone, threw a self-pass off the right wall, and blew past Edler. Marchand muscled off the backcheck of Kesler. Then Marchand sliced through the crease, waited for Luongo to hit the deck, and roofed a shorthanded goal into the net at 11:30 to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead.
With one rush, Marchand undressed most of Vancouver’s traveling contingent to Las Vegas for the NHL’s annual awards show: Sedin (Hart Trophy), Kesler (Selke), and Luongo (Vezina).
“Obviously, it’s one I’m one proud of,’’ Marchand said. “Couple lucky bounces there. Couple guys poked at it. It was kind of rolling at times.’’
Things got rough in the third.
At 11:16, Lucic was tagged with slashing, roughing, and a 10-minute misconduct penalties. He had tangled with Alex Burrows, whose chompers drew blood from Patrice Bergeron’s right index finger in Game 1. Lucic took off his right glove and waved his bare fingers in front of Burrows. In Game 2, Maxim Lapierre had done something similar to Bergeron.
Yesterday morning, Julien ripped Lapierre for his actions.
“If it’s acceptable for them, then so be it,’’ Julien said. “It certainly wouldn’t be acceptable on our end of it. The NHL rules on something. If they decide to make a mockery of it, that’s totally up to them. If that’s their way of handling things, so be it.’’
Last night, Julien had similar criticism for Lucic.
“I don’t want that stuff in our game,’’ Julien said. “I think we have to be better than that. Emotions are running high. It was a very physical game. There was a lot of stuff going on. You can live with that kind of stuff. But the other stuff, I don’t want to see.’’
That wasn’t all. Thomas dumped Henrik Sedin with a check in front. Seidenberg dropped the gloves with Kesler.
“We play our best hockey when we play on the edge,’’ Recchi said. “When we play that way, we play physical, we’re passionate about it, we’re involved. We played this like a Game 7.’’