Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bruins respond to Horton cheap shot

Well, at least it's a series. Using extra incentive, the Bruins routed the Canucks 8-1 in Game Three at TD Garden last night. The eruption didn't get started until 11 seconds into the second when an Andrew Ference shot snuck past Roberto Luongo. Vancouver's Vezina candidate had previously been stellar in backstopping his club to a 2-0 series lead, permitting only two goals. However, it wasn't his night nor any other Canuck as they were badly outplayed by a determined bunch of Bruins, hell bent on sending a message following what happened in British Columbia.

As if it weren't enough that Max Lapierre mocked bite victim Patrice Bergeron during Game 2, the B's had even more reason to respond when Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome delivered a late hit on an unsuspecting Nathan Horton, who laid motionless for several minutes. Horton had already released the puck a good second when Rome came from the blindside with a shoulder right to the jaw. The stunning cheap shot silenced a sellout crowd as Horton looked skyward. That it came so early was startling. Rome isn't a dirty player. Something Bobby Ryan noted today via Twitter. Unfortunately, he erred in judgment with the kind of late hit the league is looking to rid of. Not surprisingly, he was suspended four games, which if it went the distance, would mean the rest of the series. In the event it ends early, he'd serve out the rest next season.

The appropriate call was made with Rome ejected for a five minute interference major, which was installed last year. Down a man, the Bruins couldn't take advantage as their power play fizzled thanks to superb penalty killing and some timely stops from Luongo, who was sharp initially. He took away the low part of the net and had solid rebound control. Boston also overpassed, which allowed an already good Vancouver special teams to get the job done and build momentum. In fact, they took the play to the B's the last half of the first, forcing Tim Thomas to come up with a few sparklers, including a kickout and cat-like glove.

Following his team's eruption that saw them score four apiece in the second and third, Claude Julien noted that he didn't say anything different than usual to his desperate team at intermission. The veteran coach felt his club was lacking emotion and inserted popular enforcer Shawn Thornton for rookie Tyler Seguin. The move worked with the 14-year vet sparking the B's with solid work over nine shifts (5:50), delivering a crunching hit and even drawing a penalty when he forced Luongo to deny a bid. Naturally, with all the bad blood, once Boston put it away it turned nasty and Thornton was there to protect teammates.

If Vancouver did everything right the first two in holding serve, that team was nowhere to be found, often leaving Luongo to fend for himself. The best D in the game didn't show and lost focus in a penalty marred game that included five game misconducts with the teams combining for 125 PIM with most of it in garbage time. It even saw the tame Daniel Sedin assessed a misconduct following a wild scrum involving Bite Gate extraordinaire Alex Burrows, who went to the ice a little too easy from a shove following a slash, infuriating Milan Lucic, who challenged him. Of course, the Game 2 hero chickened out hiding behind the stripes. Lucic also lost his cool waving his finger right into Lapierre's mug during another scrum that saw the antagonist tossed. He was chastised by Julien along wiht 43 year-old vet Mark Recchi for shenanigans and later critiqued himself for sinking to Lapierre's level. During the chaos, Ryan Kesler took on Dennis Seidenberg following some cheap stuff, which saw both gone.

Speaking of Recchi, the ageless warrior who just ended a scoring drought, was again involved- tallying twice to eclipse his three round total (2) in just three games of the chippy Stanley Cup Final. On the 25 Year Anniversary of the Cam Neely trade, who the Canucks ironically gave up on, the Bruins turned back the clock to whip the President's Trophy winners. Once Ference broke through, the black and gold seized control with Recchi centering a pass off Ryan Kesler's stick for a power play goal, marking the second consecutive game Boston's power play scored. Before the onslaught, Lucic took his second undisciplined minor giving Vancouver a chance to get back in it. Instead, an unbelievable individual effort from rookie Brad Marchand resulted in the goal of the series. Stealing the puck at his own blueline, the speedy penalty killer slipped around three Canucks and then completely undressed Luongo, deking and going forehand top shelf for an unassisted goal that blew off the roof.

Finally with some breathing room, the B's didn't sit back with David Krejci adding to it when he took a Michael Ryder backdoor feed and beat Luongo in front. The four-goal explosion left questions as to whether Luongo would return for the third. Surprisingly, he did. It only got worse as Boston wasn't done, putting another four spot on the helpless Canadian hero in the second part of the third. With his team on another power play, Daniel Paille powered past ex-Isle Jeff Tambellini and beat Luongo thru the wickets for 5-zip with 8:22 left. Tambellini had a brutal game, also in the box when Recchi notched his first of the night.

Though Jannik Hansen broke up Thomas' shutout after slashing Krejci and then burying a Raffi Torres feed, even in a blowout the Vezina frontrunner was outstanding, finishing with 40 saves. Vancouver certainly got scoring chances but the athletic 37 year-old vet wouldn't allow them to think comeback. As a matter of fact, Thomas has allowed four goals on 108 shots thus far. Given his brilliant play throughout the postseason, you can make the argument that win or lose, he's the leading Conn Smythe candidate. We'll see how it plays out.

After Recchi finished off his second off a great pass from Marchand, it escalated with Ference and Kevin Bieksa trading barbs before getting the final couple of minutes off. With what was left of the Canuck bench going through the motions, Chris Kelly and Ryder added insult to injury to mercifully conclude the scoring. Even Tomas Kaberle got on the score sheet.

The madness certainly was entertaining but I doubt a seven-goal rout was what Versus had in mind following a much lower rated Game 2 that went to sudden death. I guess scheduling even on NBC for a June Saturday was a mistake. Be that as it may, this is a very fun series with plenty of intensity. These teams don't like each other and it should only intensify when they take the ice for Game 4 tomorrow night in Beantown.

As for the Rome suspension, I've seen some fans argue that it wasn't that bad. I wouldn't necessarily call it blatant. But he did cross the line, which is why rules on late hits are in place. This isn't a repeat offender. Just a kid who made a mistake and probably feels badly for Horton, who luckily was moving all extremenities as he was carried off the ice and rushed to the hospital. We sure hope the ex-Panther will be okay. For Alain Vigneault, he can dig into reserve and reinsert vet Keith Ballard, who might be an upgrade. The Canucks are without Dan Hamhuis, which hurts strong blueline that still features Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Edler, Bieksa and Sami Salo. However, they're already using ex-Bruin Andrew Alberts. So, Ballard could prove vital if he gets in. Meanwhile, figure Seguin to take the place of Horton leaving Thornton in as an energizer.

It all sets up a pivotal Game 4. Don't miss it!

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