BOSTON (Reuters) - The Boston Bruins mauled the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 Monday to send the Stanley Cup final back to Canada’s west coast for a winner-take-all Game Seven.
An 82-games regular season and two-months of punishing playoffs will reach a dramatic conclusion Wednesday in Vancouver with the Canucks claiming their first NHL championship or the Bruins ending a 39-year title drought.
”At the end of the day, they won and we’re going back home in front of our fans,“ Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault told reporters after another lopsided loss in Boston. ”They’ve won at home, we’ve won at home, and we’re going back home.
“One game showdown to win the Cup. That’s it.”
Five Stanley Cup banners hang from the rafters of TD Garden and the Bruins are still on track for a sixth after a comfortable win tied the best-of-seven series 3-3.
Home-ice advantage has been the one constant in a hard-hitting and occasionally ill-tempered final that has seen wild swings in momentum. Boston lost all three games in Vancouver by one-goal margins but dominated at home winning 8-1, 4-0 and 5-2.
With the Stanley Cup in the building and the champagne on ice in the event of a Canucks win, the suspense hung heavy over a packed arena that crackled with electricity Monday.
Backed by a seething black-and-gold crowd, the Bruins were quickly on the attack, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic scoring 35 seconds apart before Andrew Ference’s power-play goal made it 3-0 and chased a reeling Roberto Luongo from the Vancouver net.
Michael Ryder welcomed Canucks backup netminder Cory Schneider to the game by scoring with Boston’s first shot on the 25-year-old, giving the Bruins a 4-0 lead with more than 10 minutes left in the opening period.
After a scoreless second period, the Canucks got on the board 22 seconds into the third, Henrik Sedin converting on the power play to notch his first goal of the final and spoil Boston goalie Tim Thomas’s shutout bid.
”He (Thomas) has been in the zone for the whole playoffs and you can barely count on one hand how many bad goals he’s given up,“ said Boston coach Claude Julien. ”He’s come in and decided just to focus on his play and nothing else.
“He’s been outstanding for us and we all know the teams that normally win the Stanley Cup usually have unbelievable goaltending. We feel like we’ve got that.”
David Krejci restored Boston’s four-goal cushion with a power-play goal in the seventh minute before Vancouver’s Maxim Lapierre closed out the scoring with a consolation goal.
The series has produced spectacular netminding, and on Monday Thomas reinforced his candidacy for the Stanley Cup playoffs’ most valuable player with another solid evening of work, saving 36 of 38 shots.
His Vancouver counterpart Luongo has two shutouts and allowed just two goals in three games at home but has been leaking goals on the road, surrendering 15 in three losses in Boston.
”I’ve got to believe in myself,“ said Luongo. ”I‘m not going to make any excuses, it just didn’t happen for me in all three games. I‘m just going to move on, we have one game at home to win a Stanley Cup.
“So we’re going to put what happened tonight behind us as soon as possible and get ready for what is going to be a dream, playing in Game Seven of a Stanley Cup.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford