VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) Raffi Torres ended an ugly Stanley Cup finals opener with a dramatic flash of beauty for the Vancouver Canucks.
Torres scored on an exceptional pass from Jannik Hansen with 18.5 seconds to play, and the Canucks stunned the Boston Bruins 1-0 Wednesday night.
Roberto Luongo made 36 saves in his third shutout of the postseason for the Canucks, but Boston’s Tim Thomas matched him until Torres – the only Vancouver player with previous finals experience – slipped through the defense for a beautiful goal that launched a wild celebration at Rogers Arena.
“I thought we were going to play all night the way it was going,” Luongo said. “It was an exciting way to start the series. It was such a close game. It could’ve gone either way, a flip of the coin.”
Thomas stopped 33 shots for the Bruins, who went scoreless on six power plays. Boston played outstanding defense until the NHL’s highest-scoring team finally connected in the final minute.
Game 2 is Saturday night in Vancouver.
Boston also killed six Canucks power plays in an outstanding defensive game led by captain Zdeno Chara, but Torres’ goal ended the 37-year-old Thomas’ shutout streak at just under 129 minutes. He hadn’t allowed a goal since Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, shutting out Tampa Bay in Game 7.
Ryan Kesler’s pass set up the final-minute scoring sequence in a tense, tight-checking game featuring stellar defense and bad-tempered play by both clubs.
Canucks forward Alex Burrows even appeared to bite the gloved finger of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron after the first-period buzzer, raising the possibility of a suspension for the Canucks’ rambunctious first-line wing.
Both teams entered their first playoff meeting looking to end lengthy Stanley Cup droughts. Vancouver has never won the NHL title in four decades of existence, losing its only two trips to the finals in 1982 and 1994. Boston has lost five straight finals since winning in 1972.
After a full week off, the Canucks came out with palpable energy from a crowd that shook the arena violently enough to dislodge a bit of confetti left over from the Western Conference finals onto the ice before the game.
But the officials kept both teams on a steady parade to the penalty box in the first two periods, a big change from the Bruins’ penalty-free Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay.
The Bruins again were hurt by their terrible power play, which managed just five goals in 61 chances in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Boston got nine shots without a goal during an early four-minute power play against Vancouver before failing to convert a two-man advantage for 1:32 early in the second period. Luongo was outstanding in the opener of his attempt to win the Stanley Cup on the same ice where he backstopped Canada to the gold medal in last year’s Olympics.
The Canucks started to turn the game in their favor in the third period.
Christian Ehrhoff’s pinpoint pass set up Hansen for a breakaway early in the third, but Thomas coolly stopped his low shot, prompting Hansen to slam his stick into the glass in frustration. Maxim Lapierre had a point-blank chance with 8 1/2 minutes left, but Thomas stopped his deflection.
Alex Edler then made a slick move for quick shot with 5 1/2 minutes to play, but the puck rang off the crossbar above Thomas’ right shoulder.
Vancouver was the NHL’s best team in the regular season, setting franchise records with 54 wins and 117 points while winning the Presidents’ Trophy. Boston finished third in the East and survived a nail-biting first-round series with Montreal before outlasting the Lightning to reach its first Stanley Cup finals since 1990.
NOTES: Vancouver scratched C Manny Malhotra, who isn’t ready to return from a career-threatening eye injury. Malhotra hasn’t played since getting hit in the left eye with a deflected puck March 16, but he returned to practice two weeks ago after at least two surgeries. Alex Bolduc replaced Malhotra in the lineup, but barely played. … The Canucks hadn’t gone into the third period of a scoreless playoff game this spring. Boston had done it three previous times. … Former Maple Leafs captain and Canucks forward Mats Sundin attended the game, as did Vancouver resident Michael J. Fox.
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