NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, June 4th (All times eastern)
(3-E) Boston Bruins (0-1) at (1-W) Vancouver Canucks (1-0), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - After a dramatic victory in the opener, the Vancouver Canucks will try to take a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals when they host the Boston Bruins tonight at Rogers Arena.
The Western Conference champions grabbed the early lead in this best-of-seven series by edging the Bruins, 1-0, in Wednesday's Game 1 matchup in British Columbia. Boston will be desperate to take tonight's Game 2 encounter or risk heading back home in an 0-2 hole. The Bruins will host the third and fourth tilts of this series with Game 3 set for Monday at TD Garden.
The Bruins and Canucks were scoreless for over 59 minutes on Wednesday before Raffi Torres scored with just 18.5 seconds remaining in the third period to give Vancouver the 1-0 victory.
Although the winning goal belonged to Torres, Canucks forward Ryan Kesler made an excellent play to start the decisive sequence.
Kesler stripped defenseman Johnny Boychuk near the blue line to start a tic- tac-toe play. He then fired the puck across the ice to Jannik Hansen above the right circle, and Hansen squeezed a pass into the slot for Torres, who got behind a defender to beat Boston goaltender Tim Thomas into the left side of the net.
"It was just as exciting as an overtime goal," said Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, who made 36 saves for a shutout.
Kesler's secondary assist marked his 19th point (7 goals, 12 assists) of the postseason, leaving him behind only teammate Henrik Sedin and Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis in playoff scoring. Sedin has 21 points, while St. Louis of the eliminated Lightning had 10 goals and 10 assists.
Thomas, who had been so good through 59 minutes and 41.5 seconds, almost got his right skate down in time to stop Torres' shot. Instead, his final line read 33 saves on 34 shots.
"It's obviously a nice goal by them," said Boston head coach Claude Julien. "They kind of took the game over in the third period and obviously found a way to win it with a late goal."
At the other end, Luongo shut the Bruins out. The Canucks netminder made 36 saves, including 17 in an active first period and 10 in the third to keep the door closed.
Until the goal, the story of Game 1 had been about missed chances: The teams combined to go 0-for-12 on the power play in the first two periods, having better luck finding each other after the whistle than finding the back of the net.
"At one point, I thought we would be playing all night here," said Luongo.
Vancouver has never won a Stanley Cup title and is in the Finals for the first time since 1994 when they were ousted by the New York Rangers in seven games. However, the Canucks, who won the Presidents' Trophy as the club with the best regular season record this season, have now won 10 of their last 13 games.
"Our confidence is pretty high right now," said Torres, "but we know, like Kes (Kesler) said, it's just one game. We have to carry that into Game 2."
Of course, the Canucks are not only carrying the hopes of a city, but also a nation considering a Canadian team hasn't lifted the Cup since Montreal defeated Wayne Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings in 1993.
The Bruins, meanwhile, have won five Stanley Cups, but none since 1972. They are 0-5 in the Finals since then, the last loss coming to Edmonton in 1990. Boston is 5-21 in Cup Finals games since the '72 championship and has lost 11 of its last 12 contests on the NHL's biggest stage.
Vancouver defenseman Dan Hamhuis was injured in Game 1 when he delivered a hip check on Boston's Milan Lucic in the second period. Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said that Hamhuis is day-to-day with the undisclosed injury.
Hamhuis, who was signed to a six-year, $27 million deal by Vancouver last summer, could be replaced by Andrew Alberts if he is unable to go tonight.
In other injury news, Vancouver's Manny Malhotra has been out since March 16 with an eye injury and is day-to-day. Malhotra was hit in the left eye with a puck and although the injury was originally expected to keep him out for the remainder of the year, it is now believed he could return at some point in the Finals.
The Canucks and Bruins have never faced each other in the playoffs and the clubs only met once this season with Boston notching a 3-1 decision at Rogers Arena on Feb. 26.
Vancouver boasts a solid 8-3 record at Rogers Arena in these playoffs, while the Bruins have a 5-4 record as the visiting team this spring.
06/04 10:41:09 ET