Bruins chase Luongo to force Game 7
The Vancouver Canucks left their bench, walked through the tunnel with their heads hung low and their spirit in short supply on Monday.
But 10 minutes after the final horn sounded on the Boston Bruins lopsided 5-2 victory, the Canucks had a positive spin and looked forward to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in front of their loyal supporters on Wednesday.
Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa reasoned that the defeat was nothing more than a bad four minutes in the first period. That was 5½ minutes in when the Bruins scored four goals in a Cup final record 4:14 and were off and running to tie the series.
"I don't have any answers," Bieksa said of this crazy final that has seen the Canucks win three one-goal games at home and be outscored 17-3 at TD Garden. "We've played really well at home and in every game here we've had one bad period.
"Statistics aren't our strong suit in this series. But it doesn't matter how we lose or how we win. We didn't expect this to be easy. We thought this would be a long series and it is."
The Canucks also lost another player in second-line left wing Mason Raymond. On the game's first shift, he crashed into the corner boards rear first when checked by Bruins defenceman Johnny Boychuk.
A woozy Raymond was helped off the ice and then taken to hospital for further examination on what was termed by the Canucks as an undisclosed injury. There was no penalty assessed on the play, which made the Canucks incensed, and no update was provided by the team afterwards.
While Raymond's availability is unlikely for Game 7, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault ended speculation about his dodgy goaltending situation. Roberto Luongo will start on Wednesday, even though he had another rough outing in Game 6. He was yanked after yielding three goals on eight shots.
Incredibly, Luongo has two shutouts, three wins and stopped 85 of 87 shots in the games in Vancouver. In Boston, he has lost three decisions, been pulled twice and has surrendered 15 goals on 66 shots. "He'll bounce back, no question," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. "I've seen him do it all season."
The Canucks actually had a strong start to the game. But then Bruins feisty forward Brad Marchand raced down his off wing and beat Luongo high on the glove side. Luongo admitted afterwards that he should have made that save.
The Marchand goal opened the flood gates. Milan Lucic slipped a shot from in close through his legs. Andrew Ference blasted in a shot from the point on the power play, and that was it for Luongo. He plopped himself on the end of the Canucks bench and gave way to backup Cory Schneider.
Luongo told Schneider to close the door because his teammates had the ability to come back. But then Boston's Michael Ryder tipped in a Tomas Kaberle shot 70 seconds later.
The Canucks didn't score a meaningful goal in Boston. And now they will take their chances against Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, the favourite for the Conn Smythe who has put forth one of the best goaltending performances in Stanley Cup history. His 36 saves increased his playoff total to 761, tying the mark set by Vancouver's Kirk McLean in 1994. Thomas also faced 812 shots in these playoffs, second all-time to McLean's 820.
"He's been in the zone for the whole playoffs and you can barely count on one hand how many bad goals he's given up in this whole playoffs," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "That speaks volumes for him. He's come in and decided just to focus on his play and nothing else. He's been outstanding for us and we all know the teams that normally win the Stanley Cup usually have unbelievable goaltending. We feel like we've got that."