VANCOUVER --Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo weren't messing around in their Stanley Cup Final debut. The Vezina Trophy finalists were matching each other save for save Wednesday night, but Game 1 between the Canucks and Bruins had to have a winner.
Raffi Torres and Luongo made sure it was the home team.
It took just over 59 minutes and 41 seconds, but Torres scored the lone goal of the night with only 18.5 seconds left in the third period, meaning Luongo's perfect night was indeed good enough to lift Vancouver to a 1-0 regulation victory at Rogers Arena. Luongo made 36 saves for his third Game 1 shutout of the playoffs as the Canucks took a 1-0 lead over Boston in the Stanley Cup Final.
It was only the sixth time in the expansion era that Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final ended in a shutout. All five previous Game 1 shutout winners went on to win the Stanley Cup ('08 Red Wings, '03 Devils, '01 Avalanche, '84 Oilers and '83 Islanders).
Game 2 is Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
Luongo has stopped 92 of 94 shots going back to Game 5 against San Jose.
"It was just as exciting as an overtime goal," Luongo said of Torres' winner. "There was not a lot of room on the ice, as we saw. At one point I thought we might be playing all night here."
Kesler took a pass from Kevin Bieksa and got the puck in the zone – he danced around Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who was pinching up in an attempt to intercept the pass. As Kesler settled the puck, Torres, who had just come on in a late line change, got ahead of a retreating Boychuk and found a free lane to the slot.
Kesler got the puck across to Hansen, who made a move and then fed Torres for an easy one-timer into a wide-open net. Thomas was caught on a string as Kesler's pass to Hansen and Torres' ability to get in ahead of Boychuk created a 2-on-1 against Zdeno Chara, who dove to stop the pass but never touched it.
"I saw (Hansen) skating down the slot and he got himself into a position where I started respecting the shot and started to cut down the angle," Thomas said. "He was able to pass it to the guy (Torres) who was cutting to the net, who I didn't even see was there."
Added Canucks forward Daniel Sedin: "We needed an empty net to score and we were able to do it."
Putting Thomas on a string the way he was on the winner was the only way to beat him Wednesday. Then again, the Bruins never figured out how to solve Luongo either.
Luongo said he knew it was going to be a goaltender's duel from the drop of the puck. Thomas made four big saves within the first 1:45, but Luongo came back and made eight saves during Boston's four-minute power play that started only 4:03 into the game and another four during a Bruins' 5-on-3 that lasted for 1:33 early in the second period.
Luongo and Thomas combined for 46 saves through 40 minutes despite the fact that the teams had a combined 12 power plays. Thomas finished with 33 saves. He basically had no chance on the 34th shot.
"It's what everybody expected, and it's probably going to happen like that all series long," Bieksa said of the goaltending battle. "There's a reason why those two guys are up for the Vezina. Both teams are going to have to be patient because those two guys are going to be making the saves."
Thomas had to be especially good in the third period just to get Boston to within a sniff of overtime.
The Bruins were flying for 40 minutes, but coach Claude Julien admitted they lost their legs in the third period. The Canucks came at Boston with 14 shots despite playing the final 36 minutes of the game with only five defensemen because Dan Hamhuis had to leave the game with an injury four minutes into the second period.
Thomas kept the game scoreless five minutes into the third period by stopping Hansen on a breakaway from the blue line in. Hansen tried to shoot for Thomas' five-hole, but the Bruins' goalie closed it up and covered it with his stick. He made another huge save on Maxim Lapierre with 8:26 to play after the Canucks' center tried to tip in a centering pass from Hansen.
Thomas also got some help from the crossbar with 5 ½ minutes remaining when Alex Edler skated to the top of the left circle and ripped a shot off the iron that bounced through the blue paint and out the right side.
"To be in the situation we were after two periods, I didn't mind it, especially against this hockey club," Julien said. "Obviously, third period they were the better team and they ended up scoring that goal. It got away from us, but we still got an opportunity here in the next game to hopefully get that one and kind of get the home-ice advantage."
Neither team could get its power play going, which isn't a surprise for the Bruins but is a bit of a shocker for the Canucks. Boston entered the series just 5-for-61 on the power play in the playoffs, but the Canucks were 9-for-24 in their five-game series win over San Jose.
Both were 0-for-6 in Game 1.
"As long as we're able to stay on even terms with them when it comes to special teams, we're OK with that," Julien said.
The Bruins are not OK with getting beaten by Vancouver's third line.
Torres, Hansen and Lapierre provided the Canucks' energy in the third period and thanks to a timely line change two-thirds of the third line provided the late-game theatrics.
"We were running the shifts shorter, trying to out-change them to get a few more opportunities," Hansen said. "It worked."
When Hansen, Torres and Lapierre are creating offensive chances off the forecheck, the Canucks are a hard team to beat. In fact, Vancouver is 6-2 this postseason in games when any one of the third-liners registers a point.
"They're going to win us games," Daniel Sedin said. "They did that (Wednesday) and hopefully they can keep that going."