VANCOUVER -- The Boston Bruins have gone from chokers to champions in 13 months. They capped pick-your-hero night with a Stanley Cup celebration.
Tim Thomas foiled the Vancouver Canucks one last time to win the Conn Smythe Trophy and second-liners Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron provided the offense that brought the Stanley Cup back to Boston for the first time in 39 years. In the process of celebrating their 4-0 win at Rogers Arena in Game 7 on Wednesday night, the Bruins also erased the bitter memory of last year's historic collapse against Philadelphia in the second round.
"We never, never quit, and that's what I'm proud of," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "They're so deserving of what has happened here. It's not a fluke. It's something they earned."
Marchand finished his rookie season with a pair of goals and an assist in Game 7 while Bergeron beat Roberto Luongo twice, including once while Boston was shorthanded late in the second period. Dennis Seidenberg added a pair of assists to help the Bruins send 18,860 disappointed fans into the downtown streets wondering if their team will ever win the Stanley Cup.
The home team had won every game in this Stanley Cup Final until Wednesday.
"It's tough right now," said Canucks center Ryan Kesler, who finished the series with just one point. "It's really tough."
With 37 more saves in Game 7, Thomas now owns the NHL record for most saves in the postseason (798) and a Stanley Cup Final (238) as well as most shots faced in a postseason (849). He allowed only 8 goals in the Final and became the first goalie in NHL history to win Game 7 with a shutout on the road. He is only the fourth goalie in history to post a shutout in Game 7.
"Yeah, I was scared," Thomas admitted in his postgame press conference. "I won't lie. I had nerves yesterday and today. I faked it as well as I could, and I faked my way all the way to the Stanley Cup."
Mark Recchi didn't fake anything after the game. Boston's 43-year-old forward announced his retirement on the ice during the Bruins' celebration.
Recchi went out in style, winning his third Stanley Cup in his home province, just 160 miles from his hometown of Kamloops, B.C. He also went out with an assist in Game 7, giving him 7 points in the Final and 14 in 25 playoff games.
"It's the end for me," said Recchi, who received the Stanley Cup first from Bruins' captain Zdeno Chara. "I'm going out on top and I couldn't happier with this group of guys. Regardless of what happened, this was going to be one of the best groups I have ever played with. We're fortunate to win and we're going to enjoy this."
Marchand didn't make any friends in Vancouver these last 2 1/2 weeks, but he burned the Canucks again by scoring two more goals, giving him at least one in all of Boston's wins in the Final. Marchand had 7 points in the series to give him 19 in his first NHL postseason.
"I think they got really cocky and they thought they were just going to roll over us," Marchand said, throwing one final shot at the Canucks on his way out of Vancouver. "We took pucks and bodies to the net and we were able to pull it off."
On the flip side, Roberto Luongo, who had been spectacular at home in the Final and dreadful on the road, was only average Wednesday after giving up three goals on eight shots in just 8:35 of work in Boston on Monday.
He was beaten by a Bergeron's one-timer in the first period, a Marchand wraparound 12:13 into the second and Bergeron's sliding shorthanded goal a little more than five minutes later.
Luongo again failed to come up with a big, momentum-turning save. He may never live it down.
"What are you going to do? We all want to be better," Luongo said. "That's the bottom line. We're not going to point fingers at one individual. I think as a team, if we all could've stepped up a notch, starting with myself, we could've gotten that job done."
The Canucks were the best team in the regular season for 82 games, and after a near-monumental collapse in the first round against Chicago, they rolled through Nashville and San Jose to get to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1994.
But just as they did 17 years ago, they lost Game 7 to an Original Six team.
"At the end of the day, you've got to give credit where credit is due. Boston played a real strong game," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "They have great goaltending and they were able to score a couple of tough goals around our net and they deserved to win."
Worse yet, Vancouver had the better start to Game 7, but the Bruins withstood the swarm, got a goal from Bergeron with 5:23 left in the first period and went into the dressing room with a 1-0 lead. It was 3-0 by the end of 40 minutes -- and Rogers Arena was silent.
Vancouver held a 21-13 advantage in shots on goal after two periods, but it didn't matter. Thomas was again the far superior goalie.
He made eight saves in the first, 13 in the second and 16 more in the third.
"It was one of the best (performances by a goalie) I've ever seen -- from Day 1 when he played that exhibition game the Czech Republic until the final game," Recchi said. "I've never seen that throughout the course of the whole year."
Ironically, Thomas did not make a save on the Canucks' best chance to tie the game. Instead, it was Chara.
Roughly nine minutes into the second period, Alexandre Burrows collected a turnover from Chara in front of the net and waited until Thomas came far out of his crease before firing at what he thought was an empty net. Chara got in front after the turnover and went down into a butterfly to stop Burrows' shot from going in.
Less than three minutes later, Marchand beat Luongo with a backhanded wraparound goal to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead that ballooned to 3-0 when Bergeron scored a disputed shorthanded goal with 2:25 to play before the second intermission.
The officials had to go to video review for confirmation to make sure Bergeron didn't inadvertently knock the puck in with his hands as he slid into Luongo.
"I knew it was a goal because I didn't touch it once I was on the ice," Bergeron said.
He was right and the Bruins had a three-goal lead heading into the third period.
Twenty minutes later, they were Stanley Cup champions.
"We know it's been since 1972 and they're dying for a hockey championship team in Boston," Julien said. "We are finally able to deliver that to them."