Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks have a flair for the dramatic and a knack for snatching the series opener in this playoff run that has them three victories shy from their first Stanley Cup championship.
Luongo earned his third shutout of the 2011 postseason with a 36-save performance and another one-goal win that saw Raffi Torres knock in a pinpoint pass from linemate Jannik Hansen with 18.5 seconds remaining in the third period on Wednesday. Luongo’s previous shutouts this spring also were in the series openers against the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators.
Ryan Kesler made a heck of a play at the Bruins blue-line to block the clearing attempt from Boston defenceman Johnny Boychuk. Hansen then found Torres in close to end a game that also saw Canucks forward Alex Burrows bite the finger of Boston centre Patrice Bergeron and Vancouver defenceman Dan Hamhuis leave the game in the second period with a suspected left leg or knee injury after he nailed Bruins forward Milan Lucic with a hip check.
Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault listed his dependable defenceman as day-to-day. This forced veteran Christian Ehrhoff to play a team-leading 26 minutes and 26 seconds. Alex Edler blocked a team-leading five shots.
"Obviously, going down to five D midway through the second, with the intensity that was out there, was obviously taxing on our group," Vigneault said. "But I thought our forwards did a good job of helping our defence out. I thought the five guys that handled the workload did a real good job of sharing the time. I thought our best period was our third period. We were down to five D at that time."
Burrows admitted that Bergeron’s finger was in his mouth, but he claimed that he didn’t chomp on his opponent’s digit. Bergeron had a different version. He stated that Burrows did bite him and he had a cut on his finger as proof. He also said that he was given an antibiotic as a precautionary measure.
When asked if he was afraid that the NHL might suspend him for biting Bergeron, Burrows retorted "next question."
Boston head coach Claude Julien believed his player’s side of the story.
"I haven't had time to look at that stuff right now," Julien said. "I'm going by what Patrice told me. Obviously there was something that happened. I guess I'll save my comments for after I see it. But if that's the case, it's a classless move, not something players should be doing at this level anyway."
Thirteen of the Canucks' playoff games this spring have been one-goal decisions, with the Canucks coming out on top nine times. They have yet to trail in a series and with Luongo stepping up his play the Bruins will be in tough. The Vancouver goalie has won six of his past seven games after a shaky opening-series against the Blackhawks and middling start to the Predators series.
But as good as Luongo was, his fellow Vezina Trophy candidate, Tim Thomas, was brilliant as well. The Bruins had the better of the play in the first period because of a four-minute high-sticking penalty to Daniel Sedin, but the Canucks turned it on and only Thomas kept the game at 0-0.
Luongo knew he was in for a goaltending battle against Thomas, who was coming off a 1-0 shutout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the East final.
"Right away, Timmy made a few big saves in the first few minutes," Luongo said. "Then they got their power-play. I was feeling pretty good. As the game was moving along, obviously there wasn't a lot of room. But when saves needed to be made, we were both making them.
"I had a feeling we were going to go to overtime and play for a little while here."
The Bruins could have helped their cause with a power-play goal, but even though they had a number of chances in their six man-advantage situations — the same number of power plays the Canucks had — they now are a dismal 5-for-67 on the power play.