Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Malhotra the main show in Canucks win

Categories: Boston Bruins, VAN vs. BOS, Vancouver Canucks

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Manny Malhotra found out in the early afternoon that he would make his return to action after suffering what was thought to be a season-ending eye injury, and play in his first Stanley Cup Final. (Harry How/Getty Images) Manny Malhotra found out in the early afternoon that he would make his return to action after suffering what was thought to be a season-ending eye injury, and play in his first Stanley Cup Final. (Harry How/Getty Images)
By Tim Wharnsby, CBC Sports

VANCOUVER -- Manny Malhotra didn't want to be a sideshow in his return after a 2 ½ month absence due to a serious left eye injury.

Instead, he was the main show for part of the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 overtime victory over the Boston Bruins to snatch a 2-0 series lead with the Stanley Cup Final switching to Boston for the next two games.

It certainly was an emotional evening. The crowd exhibited how important the return of No. 27 was, right from the time the 31-year-old Malhotra was the last player to hit the ice for the pre-game warm-up to his first shift of the game to a nifty play he made in the neutral zone in the third period.

Every move he made was watched and produced cheers and chants from the crowd.

"Manny, Manny, Manny, Manny," bellowed the capacity crowd of 18,860 on Saturday.

"It definitely got me thinking from March 16 to where I am now," Malhotra said. "I said it this morning, it's a privilege to play in front of fans like this. When you come to Vancouver, to say that the fans here are passionate would be a gross understatement.

"So just to be able to be out there again, to hear them cheering, to hear an ovation like that, it definitely makes you feel like a Canuck. You just feel like a part of this family."

Malhotra played on the fourth line between Jeff Tambellini and Victor Oreskovich. The veteran centre found out in the early afternoon that he would make his return to action after suffering what was thought to be a season-ending eye injury, and play in his first Stanley Cup Final.

Feeling the nerves

"At that point, you know, the thoughts going through my head was, I was excited I was going to have the chance to play, but probably the most nervous I've been in my entire career," he said.

"Coming to the rink, felt really normal, going through the same game-day routine. Again, the nerves kept getting to me. I was telling the guys, right from warmup, it was kind of sensory overload, just the noise, the crowd into it, all the towels waving. It was the first time I've seen a home crowd that excited in playoffs.

"I guess I really didn't settle down till after my first shift. It was obviously a great feeling, the ovation I got for my first shift. I think it kind of put a little bit more nerves on me, wanting to do something out there, execute. Once I got out there, felt a little bit better, started to skate. Vic and Tambo played well so that made the transition coming into the lineup a lot easier.

Malhotra wound up taking 13 shifts and playing seven minutes and 26 seconds. He was his usual reliable self at the faceoff dot, winning six of seven draws. The Canucks won only 21 of 45 faceoffs on the evening.

"Yeah, I mean, I'm real happy," Vigneault said, when asked to assess his leader's performance. "It was a real happy moment for our whole group to be able to put Manny in the lineup and to have him play the way he did.

"He did exactly what we all expected. He was real good on faceoffs. He was good on the ice. He created a scoring chance. That line played more minutes than throughout the San Jose series and I think obviously more than in the first game against Boston.

"So I'm excited to have him back and I think he's only going to get better as we move forward here."