- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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That regular-season mentality lasted less than four minutes before an all-out scrum resulted in numerous penalties, including the Bruins' Milan Lucic getting a game misconduct for leaving the bench during a fight.
After the Canucks beat the Bruins 4-3 on Saturday at TD Garden, the NHL announced the misconduct was rescinded and he will not be suspended for the incident because replays showed he had "previously entered the ice over the boards legally to join the play."
(Brad Marchand received a game misconduct for clipping, and although the league did not immediately announce a ruling, a suspension seems unlikely.)
There were a few more fights. It was an intense battle. Goaltenders on both ends played well. Offensively, there were highlight-reel goals. There was even a penalty shot. At other times, it was ugly.
"Let's not kid ourselves here; these are two teams that don't like each other, so what do you expect?" Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "The build-up from last year is still there, but I'll reiterate the same thing I said this week: It was only a two-point game, and that's how we've got to approach it. There's a lot that happened last year in the playoffs that carried over to today's game. As much as the referees tried to control it, at times it became a challenge."
Overall, it was an amazing and entertaining contest between two highly talented teams. What makes it even more interesting is the fact that both the Bruins and Canucks are better than they were last spring when they battled for the Stanley Cup.
After his team's victory, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault kept his remarks even more vanilla than his comments leading up to the regular-season Cup rematch.
"It was a very hard-fought game by two teams that battled very competitively from start to finish," Vigneault said. "Obviously, specialty teams were a huge part of this game, and for us it was Game 42, and we wanted two points and that's what we came in here and got done."
The only thing missing from this game was Canucks No. 1 goaltender Roberto Luongo. Vigneault thought it would be best to allow backup goalie -- and former Boston College standout -- Cory Schneider an opportunity to play in front of "family and friends."
The Marblehead, Mass., native played well and made 36 saves. Luongo, however, still heard his named being chanted at different points throughout the game, similar to those jeers he heard during Games 3, 4 and 6 of the Cup finals last spring.
Boston won all three of those games on home ice this past June and finally beat the Canucks on their home sheet for the right to hoist the Cup after Game 7 at Rogers Arena. The Bruins completely dominated those games at the Garden, using brute force while relying on strong goaltending from Tim Thomas.
On Saturday, both teams reverted back to their respective blueprints from June, but this time it was Vancouver that came out on top.
"It showed that we're a tough team," the Canucks' Daniel Sedin said. "This could be the toughest team to play in their building, and we stood up well against them and we didn't back down, so it was nice."
That physicality was present on both sides, but the Bruins found themselves in the penalty box more than their opponents, as the Canucks had a total of 11 power-play opportunities. Vancouver won this game for the simple reason it capitalized on its power-play chances.
"The blueprint in the finals last year was to make them pay on the power play, and we weren't able to do it last year," Schneider said. "But tonight, they were all power-play goals, so that's exactly what we intended to do last year. We just couldn't get it done, and they were the better team. This time around, we made them pay for going to the box so much."
Julien was asked a few times during his postgame news conference what he thought of the calls against his team, but he wasn't about to criticize the officiating.
"Our job is to assess our team," he said. "Our job is to assess our players. Our job is not to assess or comment on referees. I'm not stupid enough to stand up here and criticize them. What I can tell you is Vancouver scored four power-play goals, so we gave them an opportunity to score on their bread and butter."
Boston knew that in order to be successful Saturday, it had to play disciplined hockey because the Canucks have the top power play in the league. Whether the Bruins thought the penalties against them were warranted, Vancouver still took advantage of the situation.
At 18:47 of the second period, the Bruins' Marchand was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for clipping the Canucks' Sami Salo. Vancouver scored twice during that man advantage for a 4-2 lead.
"I thought two of the goals they scored were nice power-play goals, and you've got to give them credit," Julien said. "The other two, we could have done a better job on them."
As far as the call on Marchand was concerned, Julien stuck up for his player after the loss. Marchand and Salo were charging for the puck in the corner, and the crafty Bruins winger got there first. To avoid a hit, Marchand went low and took out Salo, sending the Canucks defenseman tumbling through the air. Salo was hurt on the play, needing assistance off the ice and never returning with an undisclosed injury.
"We all have our opinions on what's going on with the game and the hits and everything else," Julien said. "All I'm going to tell you is that I always told my players that they need to protect themselves. The last thing I want my players to do is get hit and then end up with a concussion, and they have to protect themselves.
"Whether it's the right way or the wrong way, it'll depend on how the league looks at it. I'd rather have a guy take a two-minute penalty than turn his back to the play, stand up straight, and then get his face knocked into the glass and be out for maybe the rest of the year with a concussion, or maybe end his career like [Marc] Savard.
"In my opinion, if guys start protecting themselves the way Marchand did, maybe guys will stop taking runs at other guys because that's the consequences you end up paying for taking runs at guys, too. Who knows where we're going to go with this? I know we're all trying hard to fix that part of the game, but it's still there, and it's still not fixed."
The notion that this was just another regular-season game, and that the Bruins and Canucks were playing for nothing other than two points proved to be nonsense because Game 8 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals did not disappoint.
Even though Vancouver won, Boston's championship banner will forever remain in the rafters at the Garden.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.