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BOSTON (Reuters) - Boston clawed their way back into the NHL Stanley Cup Finals by mauling the Vancouver Canucks 8-1 on Monday after they were stung into action by a vicious hit on Nathan Horton.
After losing the first two games of the best-of-seven final series in Vancouver, the Bruins returned home with coach Claude Julien declaring his team had not come this far just to roll over and accept defeat.
The Bruins responded with their best effort of the postseason, handing the Canucks a beating on the scoreboard and on the ice in an ill-tempered Game Three filled with fights, trash-talking and ferocious hits.
The series momentum took a dramatic shift early in the first period after Aaron Rome's blindside hit to the head of Horton left the Boston winger unconscious and twitching on the ice.
Medical staff were quickly on the ice, carefully strapping the motionless Horton onto a backboard then transporting him to a local hospital where he was reported moving all extremities.
"You always make mention about the guy that's gone to the hospital, I'm sure being there, he (Horton) would like to see this team win this hockey game," Julien told reporters.
"It's always something to motivate yourself with, ... when a guy goes down the way he did.
"Looking back at the hit, you say: 'was it a dirty hit?' I think what I would call it is it was a blindside hit that we've talked about taking out of the game."
Rome was immediately ejected with a game misconduct and interference major but the Bruins could not make the Canucks pay for their indiscretion right away, failing to convert the five-minute man-advantage.
However, payback came in the second period when the Bruins scored shorthanded, powerplay and a pair of even strength goals to take a 4-0 lead.
Andrew Ference opened the scoring 11 seconds into the second period before 43-year-old Mark Recchi made it 2-0 with the man advantage.
Brad Marchand then dazzled the capacity crowd with a superb short-handed effort, charging down the wing then slicing across the ice while fighting off a defender and flipping the puck over a sprawling Roberto Luongo to make it 3-0.
David Krejci capped off the second period burst, while Daniel Paille, Chris Kelly, Michael Ryder and Recchi, with his second of the game, connected in a bruising third that featured several skirmishes and officials handing out seven 10-minute misconducts.
Tim Thomas turned in another spectacular performance in the Boston net with 40 saves though Jannik Hansen's third period goal ruined his shutout bid.
"We started scoring and the floodgates opened and we just kept going and trying to score more," said Thomas. "We needed to win this game to start turning some momentum, to start to get us back in this series.
"We're still down 2-1 in this series. I wouldn't consider that right back in the series but I wouldn't consider us out of the series now either."
The Bruins host Game Four on Wednesday, though statistics suggest their Cup quest will be an uphill battle.
Only four teams -- Pittsburgh (2009), 1966 and 1971 Montreal (1966, 1971) and Toronto (1942) -- have erased 2-0 deficits and come back to hoist the Stanley Cup.
In the first two games there was little to separate the two teams, the Bruins suffering two gut-churning one-goal losses -- the first in the final seconds of regulation and the second just 11 seconds into overtime
"I'd rather lose 8-1 than like the way they lost their games," said Vancouver's Henrik Sedin. "This is not about goal differential.
"We got outplayed and we have to be better. You have to look at it and learn something from it."
Editing by Peter Rutherford