BOSTON — The Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks definitely share some hatred. It’s also probably safe to say what they have right now is a rivalry. That hate wasn’t on display Tuesday night as it has been in past meetings between the two teams, though. Instead, it was a fairly tame, yet one-sided affair between the 2011 Stanley Cup Final combatants.
The Bruins got their first win over Vancouver since Game 7 of that Cup Final on Tuesday as they rolled to a relatively easy and relatively uneventful 3-1 win at TD Garden. In the process, the B’s were able to add to the Canucks’ recent misery — Vancouver has now lost five in a row — as well as continue to stay hot heading into the break. Boston has now won seven of its last nine games with just two games to go before the league-wide Olympic break.
While the win didn’t look particularly difficult on the whole, it was far from a cakewalk for the Black and Gold. The Canucks came out with a desperate effort in the first period that was compounded with some sloppy play from the Bruins. Yet despite being out-chanced and outworked for much of the first period, the Bruins were able to add to Roberto Luongo’s Boston misery in the first period when Milan Lucic potted his 16th goal of the season just 5:12 into the game.
“They came out to play, like we said they would,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “They’ve got a lot of injuries and everything else, but they competed like a team, and anytime you compete like that, you’re going to get a tough opponent. I just liked the way we handled ourselves.”
The way the Bruins handled themselves was to go out and give a workmanlike effort. Boston was able to withstand that early charge from Vancouver, get on the board and then build on that early lead. The B’s came out with a much better second period that was highlighted by a pair of goals, both of which came off of crucial sequences which the Bruins executed perfectly.
Boston got its second goal midway through the second period after a bit of a mishap in the neutral zone on the power play. Milan Lucic and Torey Krug collided near their own blue line, which gave Daniel Sedin a chance to tie the game with a shorthanded bid. The Vancouver forward walked in all alone on Tuukka Rask, but the Bruins goalie was able to come up with a huge save. That started the play back the other way where Zdeno Chara eventually hooked up with Jarome Iginla for the power-play goal. Iginla’s goal, the 29th of his career against Vancouver, proved to be the game-winner.
“Those are usually the momentum-changers and game-changers,” Rask said. “You want to make that save more often than not. Today, it was good that I did and we scored right after. That was really huge.”
Where Rask was able to make a timely, potential game-changing save, Luongo failed to bail his team out. The Bruins put the game away in the final minutes of the third period. At the end of what was a 1:38 shift, Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk spotted Daniel Paille coming off of the Boston bench. With Paille behind the Vancouver defense, Boychuk took the calculated risk of trying to hit Paille with a long pass. The worst-case scenario would have been icing, but Boychuk and the Bruins got much more out of the play. Boychuk hit Paille on the tape with the pass, and Paille got in all alone on Luongo. He eventually beat the goalie with the backhander, giving the B’s a 3-1 lead with 2:54 to play in the second.
“Well, I mean some nights we get those breaks and some nights we don’t, they end up in the back of your net,” Julien said. “But that was, again, a pass by Johnny, and to have his head up there when he got the puck in his stick and [Paille] read it right away, came up the bench and when he saw that we had control of it, instead of skating into the play he just stretched himself out and it was a big goal obviously at that time.”
The latest installment of what has become one of the league’s best rivalries lacked the drama and bad blood that has become of a staple of these matchups for the first time in a long time. The matchup also saw the Bruins come out on top, for the first time in a long time as well. That’s a trade-off the Bruins are more than happy to make.