for this game

Canucks claim Game 1 on Torres' late goal

Jun 2, 2011 - 4:18 AM
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - The Vancouver Canucks finally slipped one past Tim Thomas.

It took 34 shots and nearly 60 minutes, but they found an opening in the brick wall.

Raffi Torres scored with just 18.5 seconds remaining in the third period Wednesday to lift the Canucks to a 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Starved for a championship and thirsty for some light at the back of the net, the Canucks struck first in this best-of-seven series after Ryan Kesler stripped defenseman Johnny Boychuk near the blue line to start a tic-tac-toe play.

Kesler fired the puck across the ice to Jannik Hansen above the right circle, and Hansen squeezed a pass into the slot for Torres, who got behind a defender to beat Thomas into the left side of the net.

"It was just as exciting as an overtime goal," said Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, who made 36 saves for a shutout.

Thomas, who had been so good through 59 minutes and 41.5 seconds, almost got his right skate down in time to stop Torres' shot. Instead, his final line read 33 saves on 34 shots.

At the other end, Luongo shut the Bruins out. The Canuck netminder made 36 saves, including 17 in an active first period and 10 in the third to keep the door closed.

Until the goal, the story of Game 1 had been about missed chances: The teams combined to go 0-for-12 on the power play in the first two periods, having better luck finding each other after the whistle than finding the back of the net.

"At one point, I thought we would be playing all night here," said Luongo.

Game 2 is Saturday in Vancouver.

"Our confidence is pretty high right now," said Torres, "but we know, like Kes (Kesler) said, it's just one game. We have to carry that into Game 2."

Both teams are trying to snap championship droughts.

Vancouver, although it has a Stanley Park, had never won the Stanley Cup. The Canucks are playing in the Finals for the third time, and for the first time since 1994 when they were beaten by the New York Rangers in seven games.

The Bruins have won five Stanley Cups, but none since 1972. They are 0-5 in the Finals since then, the last loss coming to Edmonton in 1990.

Both teams had good chances to score in the third period, especially the Canucks, but they were kept out of the net by two Vezina finalists.

Thomas, in particular, sparkled in the period until the last shot he faced.

He stoned a tip by Alexandre Burrows, who was in the slot for a deflection of Daniel Sedin's shot from above the left circle, and gloved a close shot from Maxim Lapierre.

Hansen got behind three defenders and tried to beat Thomas through the legs, but he snapped them shut in time. Later, Thomas stoned Lapierre on a 2-on-1, stopping his one-timer from the slot after Hansen's pass from the left circle.

But Thomas also got lucky when Alexander Edler whipped a wrister past him, but the shot hit off the crossbar and deflected away.

"Obviously in the third we just seemed lax in some energy, lost our legs," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. "They just seemed to come at us pretty hard. They kind of took the game over in the third period."

If penalties were goals, the first two periods of would have been a barnburner. Instead, the teams went scoreless in a chippy first 40 minutes.

But both teams showed some bite -- too literally, perhaps, in Vancouver's case.

An active first period on the offensive sides of the ice came to a contentious end as players from both teams gathered near the end boards in a scrum.

Boston's Patrice Bergeron and Burrows threw jabs at one another, but were separated without exchanging blows. Replays in between periods, however, showed Burrows may have bitten Bergeron's finger as a referee tried to pull them apart.

"Going by what Patrice told me obviously there was something that happened," Julien said. "I guess I'll save my comments for after I see it, but if that's the case it's a classless move. It's not something players should be doing at this level anyway."

Boston squandered a 5-on-3 chance early in the second period, the result of Burrows' double roughing minor at the end of the first and Kevin Bieksa's high-stick 28 seconds into the second.

Minutes later, the Canucks went on a power play after David Krejci was whistled for a cross-check. The Bruins forward took issue with an apparently clean hip check Vancouver's Dan Hamhuis delivered on Milan Lucic, which flipped Lucic to the ice in front of the benches. Krejci responded with a cross-check to the back of Hamhuis' head as he laid on the ice.

Vancouver didn't score on that power play -- and wasn't done wasting opportunities.

On a delayed penalty call, Kesler split two defenders in the slot and moved in alone against Thomas, but the puck slipped off the blade of his stick as he made a slight move at the last moment.

The first call was a kneeing penalty on Dennis Seidenberg, and the Canucks got their own 5-on-3 power play when Rich Peverley was whistled for hooking Henrik Sedin.

But it lasted just eight seconds. Burrows, in the mix for a lot of the wrong reasons until then, was called for tripping.

Both teams were 0-for-6 on the power play through two periods. Vancouver squandered its last opportunity in the final two minutes of the second after Bergeron tripped Hansen with 2:10 left.

Game Notes

The Canucks had seven days off after beating San Jose in five games to win the Western Conference. They also beat Chicago and Nashville in the postseason...The Bruins had four days off after winning Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning to capture the Eastern Conference. They also beat Montreal and Philadelphia in the postseason.