BOSTON -- With the talisman of their previous two championships serving as an honorary captain and watching from near the top of TD Garden, the Boston Bruins are now two victories from claiming the Stanley Cup for the first time in nearly four decades.
Bobby Orr got the night started with an inspirational wave of a flag, and Tim Thomas made 38 saves Wednesday night as the Bruins bested the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 in Game 4 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
What once was a best-of-seven battle is now a best-of-three as both teams have held serve on home ice. The series returns to Rogers Arena for Game 5 on Friday night (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
“We learned the lessons throughout the season that you have to put the games like we lost (in Vancouver) behind you," Thomas said. “I think we did a good job between Game 2 and 3 in that. I think actually we did a good job of that between Game 3 and 4. Just because we won Game 3 didn't mean we were going to go out there and have it be a cakewalk, and it wasn't.
“Every time this year that we've faced adversity as a team, we've rose to the challenge. We needed to do it one more time because we were down 2-0. Now we've done that for two games. The challenge for us will be to keep doing that."
Thomas has allowed 5 goals on 146 shots in this series. His counterpart, Roberto Luongo, yielded 11 in one 44-shot stretch and was pulled in Wednesday's contest after allowing the fourth goal of the night early in the third period.
When Alex Burrows gave the Canucks a 2-0 series lead with an overtime goal in Game 2, it led to questions about Thomas’ play, particularly his aggressive style. Now he might be the leading contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy, and just posted the first shutout by a Boston goaltender in a Cup Final game since Gerry Cheevers in 1978. It is Thomas' third shutout this postseason.
“He's had so many obstacles in front of him that he's overcome, it makes him a battler," Boston coach Claude Julien said. “It makes him the perfect goaltender for our organization because that's what we are, we're a blue-collar team that goes out and works hard and earns every inch of the ice that you can get."
It was an emotional night at TD Garden. Nathan Horton, who missed the game because of a concussion suffered early in Game 3, was well-remembered throughout the night by Bruins fans. It started with Orr, who waved the flag bearing Horton’s name and number before the game, and continued throughout the evening with people wearing his sweater being shown on the scoreboard.
Boston fans chanted Horton’s name during the third period. And, Horton even made a surprise visit to the Bruins dressing room after the game, offering a few words of encouragement. He also passed on the team’s vintage jacket, which is given to a key player after each win, to Rich Peverley. The jacket remained in Horton's stall after Game 3 because he had won it by scoring the winning goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
"It was special," Tyler Seguin said of the Horton chants. “I was on the bench and you could hear it. It gave me goosebumps a little bit. It is nice knowing the fans feel the same way we do about him. We’ve got him in the back of our minds at all times."
Added Thomas: “I was very, very happy to see Nathan up and around in the locker room. I wasn't exactly sure of his status. You know, I'd heard that he was OK, but then I heard it was a severe concussion. I didn't know if 'OK' meant he's going to live or...
“When I personally got to see him in the locker room, you know, I was incredibly happy and it gave me a big boost. He was there to pass the jacket on. We didn't pass the jacket on the last game with him gone. I think the team would have been happy leaving it with [Horton] for the rest of this series, but he wanted to give it away and keep the tradition going that we'd started."
The jacket, naturally, went to Peverley, who split time on the top line in place of Horton with Michael Ryder and scored a pair of goals for the Bruins. He put Boston on the board 11:59 into the first period.
David Krejci was able to poke the puck past Raffi Torres to Peverley who skated down the right wing and slipped a shot through Luongo’s legs.
Peverley added his second of the night and chased Luongo at 3:39 of the third period. Milan Lucic sent the puck toward the crease from the right wall and it went off Peverley as he drove the net while engaged with Ryan Kesler.
“[Horton] is a pretty fast player too. He’s probably a little more physical than I am -- he’s a pretty big player," Peverley said. “I just try to use my speed and [Krejci and Lucic] are obviously both very creative players. Getting in on the forecheck and helping out there -- they are both pretty good at holding onto pucks when the puck is in their zone."
Luongo allowed 8 goals in Game 3, and Vigneault told the media afterward that he said he wanted to stay in the game after the Bruins reached 5 in the third period. The Vancouver coach didn’t give him the option after Peverley made it a four-goal advantage Wednesday night.
Massachusetts native and Boston College alum Cory Schneider replaced Luongo and stopped all nine shots he faced in his first action since Game 6 of the opening round.
“[Luongo] is going to be fine," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. “He's one of the best goaltenders in the League. We've got a lot of trust and faith in him, in his ability to play well."
In between Peverley’s two goals, the Bruins continued to exert their dominance during the second period in this series.
Ryder made it a two-goal advantage for the Bruins at 11:11. Ryder collected a pass from rookie Tyler Seguin and put a shot past Luongo from the left wing.
It was deflected by Sami Salo’s outstretched stick and fluttered, but it was a goal Luongo would probably like to have back. Ryder now has 7 goals in this postseason.
Brad Marchand made it 3-0 a little more than two minutes later, prompting a timeout from Vigneault.
Keith Ballard, inserted into the lineup in place of the suspended Aaron Rome, fell down behind the Canucks net and was slow to get up. When he did, Patrice Bergeron poked the puck out from between his feet and to the edge of the crease where Marchand was able to chip it past Luongo at 13:29 of the middle period.
It was Marchand’s eighth goal of this postseason, tying him for the Boston record among rookies in the playoffs with Mike Krushelnyski (1983) and Bobby Joyce (1983). Boston has now outscored Vancouver 9-0 in the second period during this series.
Vancouver’s power play, which was tops among the final eight teams in this postseason, continued to be a storyline because of its struggles. The Canucks converted more than 28 percent of their opportunities with the man advantage in the first three rounds, but were 1-for-16 in the first three games of this series and were 0-for-6 Wednesday.
The Canucks will get to play two more games at Rogers Arena if needed, and they have played much better at home than on the road throughout this postseason.
“Yeah, it's tough but it's got to be done," Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa said of shaking off back-to-back blowout losses. “It's 2-2 and that's the way you look at it. They won their two at home and we won our two, so it looks like it could be a homer series and luckily we have two of the next three at home."