A nasty shoulder-to-head hit from Vancouver Canucks defenceman Aaron Rome on Boston Bruins sniper Nathan Horton has roused the Beantowners to life in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Bruins answered the Rome hit with four second-period goals en route to an 8-1 thumping before 17,565 fans at the TD Garden on Monday. The East champs now trail the Canucks 2-1 in the series with Game 4 back in Boston on Wednesday.
Will Rome, who was the victim of a questionable hit in the West final, be in Vancouver’s line-up for that game? Not likely. Yes, the Canucks depth defender caught Horton looking the other way early in the first period, but Rome’s hit came a second after Horton had delivered a pass. The rule of thumb on these late hits is a half-second is OK to finish a check.
“We'll let the league deal with that,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “I mean, that hit was a head-on hit, player looking at his pass. It was a little bit late. I don't think that's the hit that the league is trying to take out of the game.
“This is a physical game, you have big guys. You have a fraction of a second to decide what's happening out there. It's very unfortunate. Again, like I said, you never want to see that. But this is a physical game.”
Rome was given a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct and he will have a hearing with NHL vice-president Mike Murphy on Tuesday morning.
As Vigneault stated, this was not a blindside hit. But interestingly, the NHL’s new chief disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan and his blue-ribbon committee will make their first report on possible amendments to the year-old blindside headshot rule at the general manager meetings here on Wednesday.
Horton was alert and had movement in all his extremities. He even tried to fight the trainer and get up after the hit. Instead, he was taken off the ice on a stretcher and transported via an ambulance to nearby Massachusetts General Hospital to be examined. He was expected to be held overnight for observations.
The Bruins, who award a jacket for the performer of the game, hung the prize in Horton’s stall. The players sparked each other in the dressing room in the first intermission to win the game for their fallen teammate.
“We talked about obviously playing for Horty,” said Recchi, who scored twice and now has 61 career playoff goals. “He's been a great teammate all year for us, been a great guy. It's tough to see your teammate laying down there on the ice. We knew it was a late hit. But we're more concerned about his health at this time. The league can take care of the rest."
In the first round, Vancouver’s Raffi Torres delivered a controversial high hit, that he wasn’t suspended for on Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook. The Canucks won that game, but Torres hit served as a rallying point. The Blackhawks won the next three matches to force a seventh and deciding game.
Horton for Rome was not a good trade-off for the Bruins. Horton had scored eight goals in 20 playoff games this spring, including three game-winners. Rome was the Canucks sixth defenceman and played well in that role. But when he moved up to play in injured Dan Hamhuis’ spot alongside Kevin Bieksa, Rome has struggled since Hamhuis was hurt early in the second period of the series opener.
The Bruins put six shots on Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo during the five-minute power play, but they came up empty. Whatever motivation the Bruins received from seeing their teammate knocked out of the game, it didn’t happen until the second period.
In fact, Boston goalie Tim Thomas made two brilliant stops on Vancouver’s Mason Raymond near the end of the first period to keep the game goal-less before his teammates busted out for four goals from Andrew Ference, Mark Recchi, Brad Marchand and David Krejci in the second period. The 37-year-old Thomas was once again solid, but saw his shutout bid halted by a late-game goal from third-liner Jannik Hansen.
Recchi’s goal, that changed direction off the stick of Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, came on the power play. Marchand scored a dandy, unassisted shorthanded goal.
The Bruins, who have been chastised for their sloppy power play, now have gone 2-for-12 in man-advantage situations. The Canucks went 0-for-8 on Monday and now have gone 1-for-16 in the series, and allowed two shorthanded goals because Daniel Paille gave the Bruins a 5-0 lead in the third period with his team a player short.
After the fifth goal Vigneault asked Luongo if he wanted to come out, but the Canucks goalie wanted to remain in. The Canucks outshot Boston 41-38.
With the Boston win, no team has swept the Stanley Cup final since the Detroit Red Wings beat the Washington Capitals in four in 1998.