BOSTON (Reuters) - The inspired Boston Bruins continued to punish the Vancouver Canucks for a vicious hit that knocked Nathan Horton out of the Stanley Cup finals, rolling to a 4-0 win Wednesday that leveled the series at 2-2.
The Bruins lost the first two contests of the best-of-seven series by a single goal but have dominated on home ice with a pair of big victories in the wake of a huge shift in momentum early in Game Three after Aaron Rome’s brutal hit on Horton.
The loss of their right winger has galvanized the Bruins, who have outscored the Canucks 12-1 since Rome’s late check left Horton unconscious on the ice before he was taken to hospital with a severe concussion.
With the Bruins in charge late in the third period the crowd rocked the arena with chants of “Nathan Horton, Nathan Horton,” reminding the Canucks that Rome’s foul deed would not be forgiven or forgotten anytime soon.
Boston goaltender Tim Thomas turned in another dazzling display, stopping all 38 shots he faced to register his third shutout of the postseason as the Bruins improved to 9-1 in their last 10 playoff games at home.
”Watching him (Horton) going down, we want to finish what we started for him,“ Thomas told reporters. ”To be honest with you, we want to do it all for ourselves and for each other.
”I was very, very happy to see Nathan up and around in the locker room.
”I wasn’t exactly sure of his status. You know, I’d heard that he was okay but then I heard it was a severe concussion.
“When I personally got to see him in the locker room, you know, I was incredibly happy and it gave me a big boost.”
Rich Peverley, who took Horton’s place on the Bruins top line, scored twice while Michael Ryder and Brad Marchand also found the back of net.
The series now shifts back to Canada’s west coast for Game Five on Friday with the Bruins coming together and the Canucks falling apart.
”We got to bring our game with us (to Vancouver),“ Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters. ”Simple as that. We have to bring our game.
“That has to continue in Vancouver. It doesn’t matter where you are, you got to play the same way whether you’re at home or on the road.”
With temperatures hovering around 90 Fahrenheit (33 Celsius) the scene was more beach party than Stanley Cup festivities outside the TD Garden as Bruins fans in shorts and sandals soaked up the sun ahead of the opening faceoff.
But as sizzling as the weather was outside the arena, the atmosphere inside was even hotter.
Emotions were running high but little of the bad blood from Monday’s contest spilled over into Game Four until late in the third period when several skirmishes broke out, including Thomas and Vancouver’s Alex Burrows trading punches in the goalcrease.
The Canucks outshot the Bruins 12-6 in the opening period but Boston collected the only goal when Peverley scooped up the puck just inside the Vancouver blueline, broke in alone and whistled a wrist shot between Luongo’s pads.
Boston kept up the pressure in the second with Ryder and Marchand scoring just over two minutes apart.
Luongo’s night ended when he gave up an early third-period goal to Peverley and he was replaced by backup Cory Schneider, coach Alain Vigneault giving his shellshocked number one netminder a break before Game Five.
“If somebody would have told me at the beginning of the year that we could play for the Stanley Cup, best two-out-of-three series with home ice advantage in front of our fans, I would have taken those odds, I would have taken that anytime to play for the big prize,” Vigneault said.
”That’s what we’ve got right now. We’re going to put these last two games behind us.
“We play real well at home. We’re going to go and feed off the energy from our fans and give it our best shot.”
Editing by John O'Brien