VANCOUVER – When his nerves started to fray, when doubt began to sap his confidence, Patrice Bergeron got some sage advice from a wise veteran.
On the day before the biggest game of his life, Bergeron listened to what Mark Recchi told him. Then he went out and helped the Boston Bruins win a Game 7 for the Stanley Cup.
“I was getting nervous,” said Bergeron. “His advice was to relax, go out and play. Elevate your game. I did that.”
Boy, did he ever.
Bergeron scored twice, one of them a short-handed goal that was a dagger in the Vancouver Canucks’ heart in a 4-0 victory Wednesday night.
Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas made 37 stops for the shutout and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Bergeron as his teammates celebrated with friends and family on the ice at Rogers Arena. “Words are hard to describe right now the feeling we are having.
“It’s tough to soak everything in. We’ve worked so hard. We believed in us, that we could do it and we got the job done.”
After losing three times in Vancouver, the Bruins found a way to win a game they couldn’t afford to lose as they hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972.
Bergeron had a simple explanation for what the Bruins did differently against the Canucks.
“More effort,” he said. “It was all about us tonight.
“We went hard and forechecked. We were even-keeled all night. After each goal we knew it was all about the next shift.”
Recchi, 43, celebrated his third Stanley Cup by saying he’s retiring.
“That’s it for me, I’m done,” said the Kamloops, B.C., native who also won Cups with Pittsburgh in 1991 and Carolina in 2006.
“We have worked so damn hard to get this. It’s an amazing feeling. This is what you play for.”
Rookie Brad Marchand scored twice, once into an empty net, and had an assist as the Bruins won their sixth Stanley Cup. Defenceman Dennis Seidenberg had two assists.
While the Bruins celebrated the streets of Vancouver turned mean.
Angry, drunken revellers ran wild after the loss, setting cars and garbage cans on fire, smashing windows, showering giant TV screens with beer bottles and dancing atop overturned vehicles.
It was a heartbreaking end to a season in which the Canucks had hoped to win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Vancouver had the best record in the NHL this season and advanced to the final for the first time in 17 years.
When the final whistle Bruins players streamed off the bench to mob Thomas. Canuck players could only watch with hung heads.
“It’s Game 7, anything can happen,” a red-eyed Ryan Kesler said in a deathly quiet Canuck dressing room. “We had chance to put them away in their building and we didn’t.”
Bergeron’s short-handed goal in the second period decided the game. It made the score 3-0 and muffled a sold-out crowd of 18,860.
Sent in on a breakaway, Bergeron was hauled down by Vancouver defenceman Christian Ehrhoff. They collided with Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo and the puck slid into the net.
Luongo raised his arms in frustration but the referee quickly signalled a goal. The call was backed up by a video review.
Marchand said the Bruins never quit believing in themselves, even when they trailed Vancouver 2-0 in the series.
“I’m just so happy to be part of it,” said the rookie from Halifax. “I don’t think people realize what we had to go through to get here and win this.
“It just means so much for all of us. They were very tough to beat. They played with authority here at home.”
Thomas, the stocky goaltender who plays like a linebacker, had another strong game. It was his fourth shutout of the playoffs and second against Vancouver. His daughter, ribbons in her hair, watched from the stands, wearing a Thomas T-shirt.
“You think back to the first time you put on a pair of skates, this is what you play for, what you live for,” said Thomas. “It’s accomplished. I can’t believeit and it still hasn’t set in for me.
“The Stanley Cup is the most important. The other one (Conn Smythe) is an honour.”
Thomas got help from a Bruins team that forced the Canucks to take long shots and quickly cleared the puck from in front of the net. That left Vancouver with few chances at rebounds.
It will be another long summer for Luongo. The loss will be more fodder for critics who say he can’t win the big game.
“They don’t give up much and when they do they’re goaltender makes the save,” said Luongo.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said a good Canuck team got beaten by a better Boston club.
“Everybody’s disappointed,” said Vigneault said. “The players gave it their best shot but at the end of the day you have to give credit where credit is due. Boston played a real strong game, they got great goaltending and they were able to score a couple of tough goals around our net and they deserved to win.”
The Bruins forced Game 6 by beating the Canucks 5-2 Monday night in Boston.
The same excitement could be felt in Vancouver during the day that gripped the city during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Beside the crowd in the arena, thousands of people watched the game outdoors on big screens.
Actor William Shatner was in the crowd and the Green Men were in their seats beside the Bruins’ penalty box.
Bergeron’s short-handed goal came with 2:25 left in the third. It was the fifth short-handed goal the Canucks gave up in the playoffs—and third against Boston—after allowing only two in the regular season.
Marchand gave Boston a 2-0 lead at 12:13 of the second period after winning a puck battle with defenceman Kevin Bieksa. The rookie then swooped behind the Canucks’ net and jammed the puck past Luongo on a wraparound.
Bergeron opened the scoring at 14:37 of the first period on a play where Marchand did most of the work. The little centre, who has been an irritant to the Canucks all series, controlled the puck in the Vancouver end, twisting and turning away from defenders.
He sent a pretty pass to Bergeron, who fired a snap shot that hit the far post and went into the net. It was Bergeron’s first goal in 10 games.
“We came out extremely hard in the first and had a lot of chances to score goals but again we couldn’t beat Thomas,” Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. “As a team, you get momentum when you see the other team can’t score.”
About two hours prior to the game Bruins forward Nathan Horton, out with a concussion, emptied a bottle of water on the Rogers Arena ice. It was labelled “Garden Ice.”
During the game, injured Canuck Mason Raymond was shown on the big screen waving to a crowd. Raymond was wearing a corset on his upper body to protect the vertebrae compression fracture he suffered on a hit by Boston’s Johnny Boychuk in Game 6.
Boston’s last appearance in the final was 1990 when they lost in five games to the Edmonton Oilers.
The series had as many twists and turns as the winding highway that connects Vancouver with the ski resort of Whistler.
The Canucks dominated the first three games at home. Luongo allowed just two goals and twice shutout the Bruins.
It was a different story in Boston, where the Bruins outscored Vancouver 17-3 and twice chase Luongo out of his net.
The series was physical and at times nasty. Canucks defenceman Aaron Rome was suspended for the rest of the playoffs after a hit on Horton in Game 3 that sidelined the Boston forward.
Notes: The Canucks inserted Vancouver native Jeff Tambellini into the lineup for the injured Mason Raymond. …Canucks defenceman Keith Ballard took the pre-game skate but was not in the lineup. …The Bruins went a stretch of over 13 minutes between the first and second period without a shot on net. …Luongo is the first goaltender since Toronto’s Frank McCool in 1945 to record a pair of shutouts by a 1-0 score in the final.