BOSTON – In their entire seven-game series loss to the Boston Bruins last June in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, the Vancouver Canucks were just 2-for-33 on the power play.
They were much improved Saturday afternoon.
Vancouver scored four times in 11 tries with the man advantage -- including Cody Hodgson's game-winner just 1:09 into the third period -- in support of Massachusetts native Cory Schneider's solid goaltending performance in a 4-3 win at TD Garden.
It'd be fair for some to imagine that if the Canucks' power play had produced the way it did Saturday in during the Final, Vancouver would've raised its first Stanley Cup.
"I don't do the 'woulda, coulda, shoulda.' I don't do that kind of stuff," said Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa. "All I know is today our power play was pretty good. We were shooting pucks, we were gaining entry into the zone -- pretty much whenever we wanted -- and that's the way our power play has got to be."
Schneider, a native of Marblehead, Mass., who also played collegiate hockey at Boston College, was making his first career NHL start in the Bay State. He finished the game with 36 saves on 39 shots. He also anchored a Vancouver penalty kill that stifled the Bruins on all seven of their power plays.
"I can't give my guys enough credit on the penalty kill," said Schneider. "They did a fantastic job in blocking shots and clearing out the net and letting me see pucks. They're so good at getting traffic in front of me and getting pucks through that I thought we fronted a lot of shots and were able to just leave them at one shot."
Schneider also came up big on a Daniel Paille penalty shot 23 seconds into the second period. Paille attempted to beat Schneider to the glove side with a wrist shot from between the circles.
"He shoots the puck real hard. I know he likes to shoot," Schneider said. "I remember in the finals he scored a few glove side shots and I've seen him rip it glove side a couple times, so I kept it high and just presented it to try to take it away early and he kind of cut across and fortunately I had it in a good spot."
Hodgson's goal was the second of two Vancouver scored during a five-minute major against Brad Marchand, who also received a game misconduct for a clip on Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo at 18:47 of the second period. Marchand ducked under Salo as the Canucks player approached him for a hit, and Salo flipped over. Salo left the game and did not return because of an upper-body injury. He'll be reassessed Sunday, according to Canucks coach Alain Vigneault.
"It happened last year in the playoffs – tonight it was a five [-minute major] and a game [misconduct] and maybe should have been last time too," said Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin.
While the Marchand clip didn't cause much of a ruckus, the heated battle between each conference's defending champion was heated throughout. The passion boiled over just 3:54 into the game, when an altercation started near the Vancouver bench between Paille and Canucks forward Maxim Lapierre. As Paille went off for a line change, Shawn Thornton went to Paille's defense. As no fewer than five Canucks surrounded Thornton, the rest of the Bruins on the ice joined the fray.
Milan Lucic, who went on the ice to replace Paille, engaged in the scrum. The officials ruled he made an illegal line change and assessed him a game misconduct.
"I'm not blaming [the referees] – they're in the middle of a scrum there – but Looch was on the ice already. It wasn't an illegal change; he didn't come off the bench," said Bruins coach Claude Julien, who knows that coming off the bench illegally would earn Lucic a 10-game suspension. "There are no issues there in my mind; it's clear. What's unfortunate is that we lost a pretty good player early in the game, and that's what is more disappointing -- a guy looking forward to playing this game, he's from Vancouver, and he gets tossed out, but he actually didn't do anything wrong. We'll let the League, again, take care of that stuff, because there's nothing more we can do."
Vigneault said all he saw was Thornton slashing Alex Burrows to start the pile-up. Thornton said Lapierre slashed Paille in the throat. Regardless, the Canucks emerged with a 5-on-3 power play and they cashed in at 5:41 of the first period when a Chris Kelly blocked shot deflected to Ryan Kesler at the left dot and the Vancouver center rifled a shot past Tim Thomas (32 saves).
The Bruins answered at 14:57, when Marchand beat Schneider with a backhand shot in close. A Rich Peverley goal at 7:12 put the Bruins ahead for the first and only time of the afternoon.
Tyler Seguin's ill-advised tripping penalty away from the puck with 5:13 left in the third period shifted the momentum Vancouver's way. Burrows tipped home a Hodgson slap shot to tie the score at 2 with 4:39 remaining before the second break.
With just 13 seconds left in the period, Henrik Sedin's goal put Vancouver ahead just one minute after the Marchand penalty.
David Krejci needed just 42 seconds to answer the Hodgson goal in the third period, but the Bruins were unable to pull even.
"We played smart. I mean, we got pucks deep and didn't get frustrated [with] whatever happened and we kept it close too," said Vancouver forward Daniel Sedin. "I think that was the main difference. I mean, going into the second period, halfway through the game, it was a tight game. That's probably the difference from the playoffs."