BOSTON — The Boston Bruins gingerly tapped their sticks on the ice while medical personnel wheeled Nathan Horton out of the hushed arena through the Zamboni tunnel, his neck fixed in a brace after a late hit to the head from Vancouver's Aaron Rome.
Horton's teammates needed a few minutes to clear their minds after such a frightening injury. When they finally got their heads together, they created an offensive avalanche that got them right back in this series.
Andrew Ference and David Krejci each had a goal and an assist during Boston's four-goal second period, Tim Thomas made 40 saves and the Bruins beat the Canucks 8-1 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night, trimming Vancouver's series lead to 2-1.
"It's always tough when a guy goes down," said forward Brad Marchand, who scored a short-handed goal in the second. "We really wanted to get this win tonight for him. It's a very tough situation, and everyone is worried about him, but it definitely gave us motivation to win."
Game 4 is Wednesday in Boston.
Boston burst out of a three-game offensive slump one period after Horton was taken off the ice on a stretcher five minutes into the game, rendered senseless by Rome's check in the neutral zone. Horton was talking and moving his extremities after going to a hospital.
Mark Recchi scored two goals for the Bruins, who turned a big win into a blowout with four more goals in the final 8 1/2 minutes of the third period. Boston produced its highest-scoring playoff game since getting nine goals on April 20, 1983.
"We talked a lot about playing for Horty," said the 43-year-old Recchi, already the oldest player to score a goal in the Cup Final. "He's been a great teammate for us all year. It's tough to see your teammate down on the ice. We knew it was a late hit, but we're a little more concerned with his health at this point."
Boston had managed just three goals in its previous 10 periods before torching Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, who stopped 30 shots.
Daniel Paille scored a short-handed goal in the third, and Recchi, Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder — who finished with three points — scored in the final 2 1/2 minutes as the Bruins emphatically avoided a daunting 0-3 series deficit.
Jannik Hansen broke up Thomas' shutout bid with 6:07 to play for the Canucks, who finally hit a major bump in their late-season roll toward their first Stanley Cup title.
"Still 2-1 for us. Luckily, we are not playing with an aggregate score," Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "Next game is huge for us, and if we take care of that, we are in a great position. You don't want to lose 8-1. It's embarrassing at this time of year."
NHL scoring champion Daniel Sedin got a 10-minute misconduct late in the jarring loss for the Presidents' Trophy winners, who had won seven of eight games. The Canucks had given up just six total goals in their previous four games while closing out the Western Conference Final and taking a two-game lead over Boston.
"In the playoffs, a loss is a loss, if you lose in OT or you lose like we did tonight," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said.
The Bruins were one goal shy of equaling the finals record of nine goals, set by Detroit in Game 2 of the 1936 series and matched by Toronto six years later in Game 5. The eight goals were the most scored in the finals since Colorado topped Florida 8-1 on June 6, 1996, in Game 2, according to STATS LLC.
The palpable excitement of Boston's first home finals game in 21 years turned into unease just 5 minutes into Game 3.
After Horton passed the puck to Milan Lucic at the Vancouver blue line, Rome left his feet to deliver a hard shoulder check to Horton's upper chest and head. Horton appeared to be unconscious after he landed flat on his back, his arm spookily reaching up into empty space.
"I think what I recall is it was a blindside hit that we've talked about taking out of the game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "That's my view on it. Let the league take care of it. We're trying to clean that part of the game out."
Medical personnel spent several minutes attending to Horton, who scored the Bruins' winning Game 7 goals in the first round against Montreal and again in the Eastern Conference Final against Tampa Bay.
"I never want to see any player leave in that situation," Vigneault said. "The hit seemed to be a little bit late. … That was a head-on hit, player looking at his pass. It was a little bit late. I don't think that's the hit the league is trying to take out."
Rome got a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct, with at least one fan throwing a yellow towel at the Vancouver bench while Rome went to the dressing room. The shaken Bruins didn't score on six shots on their marathon power play, but the Boston crowd rose and cheered several minutes later when a scoreboard message gave good news about Horton's condition.
Boston fans already were upset with the Canucks after two bad-tempered games in Vancouver, including Alex Burrows' apparent bite on Patrice Bergeron's finger during Game 1. The bite was still on the minds of both teams, with players from both teams taunting their opponents by pointing their index finger at another player's mouth.
Just 11 seconds into the second period — the same amount of time Alex Burrows needed to end overtime in Game 2 — Ference threaded a long shot past Krejci and two Canucks defensemen to beat Luongo on the far side of his net.
The Bruins' struggling power play finally connected 4:11 later for just its seventh goal of the postseason when Recchi's centering pass hit the stick of Vancouver's Ryan Kesler, deflecting through Luongo's legs.
After Marchand created his own short-handed goal with a pass to himself off the boards, the rout was on when Krejci scored an easy goal on a long rebound given up by the struggling Luongo, a top contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.
Thomas was sharp on the other end, with a handful of slick saves including two point-blank stops on Mason Raymond late in the second period.
The goalie then got the Boston crowd on its feet with a two-handed check of Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin, knocking the playoffs scoring leader flat on his back while he tried to catch a puck that popped into the air in front of Thomas' crease.
"We're more back in it than we were before the game," Thomas said. "I didn't even mean that to be funny. What I mean is, baby steps. … If we won the next game, then I'd be comfortable saying we're right back in it."
Vancouver won the first two games on its home ice, turning both games in their favor in the third period before dramatic late game-winners by Raffi Torres and Burrows.
Game 3 already was essentially over before it even got that far.
The third period turned chippy after Sedin and Ference got misconducts for a scuffle. Moments later, Boston's Shawn Thornton threw his stick up the Bruins' tunnel in anger at the officials after getting his own misconduct penalty.
The clubs combined for 98 penalty minutes in the third, with Kesler and Boston's Dennis Seidenberg dropping their gloves for the first fight of the finals.
Boston was buzzing for the first June home game in Bruins history, along with their first Stanley Cup Final game at TD Garden, which wasn't open when Boston made its last trip in 1990. Bruins fans filled the downtown streets — but so did Vancouver fans, who wore their club's blue jerseys while filling hundreds of seats in the lower bowl.
The Bruins won Game 3 in all four of their postseason series. … Julien made one lineup change for Game 3, scratching rookie Tyler Seguin and inserting Thornton. … Vancouver C Manny Malhotra played his second straight game since returning from a career-threatening eye injury. He even took the opening draw, but the faceoff specialist lost it to Bergeron. Malhotra played 14:58.
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