The first thought in Milan Lucic’s mind was, “Just don’t go in.”
The Bruins winger had gotten tangled up with Torey Krug on the Bruins blue line while on the man advantage in the second period, allowing Daniel Sedin to grab the loose puck with only Tuukka Rask in sight on the shorthanded breakaway.
“Thankfully,” Lucic said, “Tuukka made the save.”
He did, and the puck was picked up by Lucic and brought back down the ice. He passed it to Zdeno Chara, who sent it to Jarome Iginla, and 11 seconds after Rask made the stop on Sedin, the Bruins had a power-play goal that turned out to be the winner.
Instead of a 1-1 tie, the Bruins were up 2-0 on their way to a 3-1 win over the Canucks at TD Garden Tuesday night, their first win over Vancouver since Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011.
“Those are usually the momentum-changers and game-changers,” Rask said. “You want to make that save more often than not. Today it was good that I did and we scored right after – that was really huge.”
He had seen the play developing, watched the sloppiness that led to the collision. As he said, “You can’t be happy with that on a power play. Got to be better than that.”
For the rest of the game, they were.
The Bruins had lost both of the teams’ regular-season matchups since that Game 7, both of them chippy contests filled with fights and agitation and bad blood. While that wasn’t completely gone from this game, it was far more measured than, say, the Jan 7, 2012 game in which the teams combined for 107 penalty minutes, or the Dec. 14 game in which Brad Marchand mimed kissing a Stanley Cup and a ring.
“I think it was still pretty intense,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “You could see by the hits, by the battles and everything else, but it was done in a more tasteful way, I guess. There was nothing that crossed the line, and I think that’s important, but I don’t think there’s any love lost between these two teams still.
“To me, there’s always respect for a team you played against in the finals, and right now it’s basically the first time we’ve beaten them since then. It was a victory that we needed.”
That physical play manifested itself particularly in the person of Johnny Boychuk, whose hits were seemingly all directed at David Booth. Boychuk played one of his more effective games of the season, adding an impressive assist to the three booming hits.
On that play, Boychuk and the Bruins defense had been hemmed in their zone. Boychuk finally got control of the puck, and sent a pass down center ice. The puck perfectly met up with Daniel Paille – who had just come in on a change – for a breakaway that netted the Bruins’ third goal of the night, at 17:06 of the second.
“I was really tired,” Boychuk said. “I’m not going to lie – we were out there battling and I just looked up and Danny was coming off the bench, and I just had to make the pass. It’s not as easy as it looks, especially when you’re at the end of a long, long shift.”
It could have been 3-1 earlier, though, as the Bruins had a Marchand score waved off because Krug had fallen on Roberto Luongo. But, as Boychuk said, “There was that one that was called back that we just went back at it and got that next one.”
The Canucks had scored their only goal, on a knuckler from the point by Raphael Diaz, at 11:28 of the second, making it a one-goal game at 2-1. But they would get no closer.
The Bruins had opened the scoring, with Lucic tapping a breakout pass to Iginla, who sent the puck to David Krejci at the blue line. The center passed it back to the trailing Lucic, who roofed it over Luongo at 5:12 of the first.
For Luongo, who famously struggled against the Bruins at the Garden in their Stanley Cup matchup (15 goals in three games), it was three more goals to add to his Boston tally. As he said, “I think this one’s 100 percent on me. I wasn’t too good out there tonight. I thought the guys deserved better.”
The loss left the Canucks with five straight, as their team has been ravaged by injuries. But for the Bruins, the win extended a run before the Olympic break that has them at 7-1-1 in their last nine. That was what they wanted — they have two games left before taking two weeks off.
And against a Vancouver team that has proven difficult to beat in the regular season of late, the Bruins kept their momentum going.
“We knew coming in they would be a hungry, desperate team,” Iginla said. “They are going through a bit of a rough stretch and they want to bounce back. You know the history between the two teams and not liking each other, so there is lots of motivation before the game. We knew it would be an intense game and it was.”