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BOSTON (Reuters) - The Vancouver Canucks returned home on Thursday after two crushing losses to the Boston Bruins that has left the Stanley Cup up for grabs.
After two narrow wins on home ice to open the best-of-seven series, Canucks fans had every reason to think their long wait for the Stanley Cup was almost over.
But the celebrations were put on hold after the Bruins won their two home games 8-1 and 4-0 to level the finals at 2-2.
The series took a gigantic shift early in game three when Aaron Rome's vicious late hit on Nathan Horton left the Boston forward unconscious on the ice and out of the series with a severe concussion.
Rome was subsequently suspended for the next four games and the loss of Horton only served to galvanize the Bruins, but the Canucks are confident the return home will help them regain the initiative.
"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," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. "I would have taken that anytime to play for the big prize.
"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."
The Canucks will be hoping the familiar surrounds will also signal a return to form for All-Star netminder Roberto Luongo, who let in 12 goals in Massachusetts before being pulled late in game four.
Luongo, who backstopped Canada to win the Olympic gold medal on the same rink last year, was at his best at home shutting out the Bruins in game one and providing clutch netminding in a game two overtime decision.
"We worked hard all year to get home ice advantage so this is where it's going to serve its purpose," Luonga said.
"We want to make sure we get playing the way we did in the first two games and take it to them."
The Swedish twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who have captured the last two NHL scoring crowns, have also been missing in action combining for just two points in the series.
The Canucks powerplay which was the best in the league during the regular season and throughout most of the playoffs is suddenly sputtering, going 1-22 in the Cup finals.
"We've got to be a lot better (on the powerplay)," said Henrik Sedin, who is scoreless in the finals. "We still have home ice advantage.
"We know we have to play better and we're going back home in front of our fans and we're going to do a better job.
"We can't look back. It's best-of-three now, we've got two games at home and were focusing on the next one."
Editing by Julian Linden