|ESPN.com: BlogsColumns||[Print without images]|
BOSTON -- It didn't take long for the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks to create an intense, physical and all-out battle to showcase the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.
The chirping. The finger pointing and finger biting. The taunting and trash talking. They have all been on display and they only increased in Game 3 with the Bruins skating and clawing their way to an 8-1 victory Monday at TD Garden.
With the win, Boston cut Vancouver's lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.
|Shawn Thornton, playing his first game since Game 3 of the conference finals, exchanges pleasantries with the Canucks' Maxim Lapierre.|
In the first two games, the Bruins combined for 31 hits. On Monday, Boston finished with 40 hits. Vancouver posted 31.
There's an intense hatred brewing, which should make the finals a great series.
"There's a lot on the line here. It's a big series," Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton said. "It doesn't get any bigger than this, right? So there should be emotion on both sides."
It's no coincidence the Bruins played this type of emotional game the same night Thornton returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
On his first shift, Thornton made it a point to lay on teeth-shattering body check on one of his opponents, and that player just happened to be the Canucks' Alex Burrows, who sparked a controversy by biting Patrice Bergeron's finger in Game 1.
When Thornton buried Burrows in the corner, the 17,565 in attendance gave the Bruins' tough guy a standing ovation.
The tone for the game was set.
"I thought he was awesome tonight," Bruins veteran Mark Recchi said. "He has a physical, veteran presence. He's won a Cup before. He knows what it takes. He's a great leader in the dressing room. He's a big guy and can skate well."
Unfortunately for the Bruins and forward Nathan Horton, the Canucks' Aaron Rome took his physical play too far. Rome likely will be suspended for a late hit that left Horton motionless on the ice at 5:07 of the first period. He needed to be taken off on a stretcher and was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital.
During the game, the Bruins announced that Horton could move all of his extremities, but no further update was given.
Between the first and second periods, Julien addressed his players and they talked about winning the game for their injured teammate.
Basically, the Bruins were not going to get pushed around in their barn.
Boston responded with its best period of the postseason, scoring four goals in the second. With a cushion, things became a little chippy in the third period. Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas even protected the paint when he laid out the Canucks' Henrik Sedin.
"He was catching the puck. That happens a lot in practice off rebounds and stuff like that, where a guy reaches up to catch the puck," Thomas said. "I've learned from practice if you wait for him, he can put it down this way, or he can put it down that way. I get scored on in practice if I sit back and try to react. I had a hundredth of a second to make a decision of what I was going to do. That's the way I decided to play it to try to keep the puck out of the net."
Later in the period, Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg dropped the gloves during a scrum with the Canucks' Ryan Kesler.
This was the type of game the Canucks wanted to try to avoid. Once the Bruins are able to play this style, they're a dangerous team that can completely dominate an opponent.
"When we play physical and bring that presence, we're playing our type of game," said forward Milan Lucic, who along with Recchi got an earful from Claude Julien after both taunted Canucks players by sticking fingers near their opponents' mouths in a mocking gesture. "I wasn't surprised that they came out physical and they're not going to shy away from anything. We're not going to shy away from anything and you can expect the physicality to keep on being there."
The Bruins played Game 3 more like it was Game 7. They played with emotion. They had a purpose and it resulted in a passionate victory for Boston. The Bruins found that edge and didn't cross it too much.
"We have to play that way," Recchi said. "Obviously, when it's 4-0, 5-0, we got a little carried away, but we play our best hockey when we play on the edge. We play physical. We're passionate about it. That's how we're going to have to play the rest of the Stanley Cup finals if we're going to be successful. The guys were ready and the guys were prepared."
Recchi said he knew with the series shifting to Boston for Games 3 and 4 that his teammates would respond in front of the home crowd. There have been other games during the regular season, and in the playoffs, when the Bruins have done just that.
That's what this team does. Just when you think it's down, it responds with your prototypical Big, Bad Bruins style game.
"We all believe in each other," Recchi said. "Whether we won or not, we knew that we were going to give everything we had and we were going to play the best game out of the three so far, and we did tonight. We'll enjoy it tonight, but forget about it tomorrow and regroup and get ready for Game 4."
The Bruins have a chance to even the series Wednesday night on home ice.
"We have to know this will be battle," Recchi said. "This is going to be an all-out war to win this."
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.