VANCOUVER -- After being shut out in Game 5 and managing just two goals in the first three games at Rogers Arena, the Boston Bruins knew they were going to have to get a goal in relatively short order if they were to win Game 7 and the Stanley Cup.
Patrice Bergeron, as has been his want this season, delivered just what the team needed, scoring the game-opening goal at the 14:37 mark of the first period. According to Bruins coach Claude Julien, it was the play of Game 7 and the fuel that lit Boston's Stanley Cup fire.
"Scoring that first goal has always been important for our hockey club, as you know," Julien said. "And certainly when we scored that first goal, it did give us confidence, absolutely. Because we hadn't scored here that much and now in Game 7, you're playing with the lead. And we're a team that's done a pretty good job of playing with the lead."
From there, Boston scored three more goals – all by that same second line -- to cruise to a 4-0 victory Wednesday night in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
But, according to all involved, the first goal was the most important one for the Bruins and their fragile psyche at Rogers Arena.
On the play, Bergeron and Mark Recchi both went to the front of the net, causing a traffic jam in front of Roberto Luongo while Brad Marchand, the third forward, did the work with the puck along the wall. First, he dipped toward the goal line and then he backtracked out toward the circle, before changing tack again; all the time being shadowed by Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo.
Suddenly, he saw an opening and passed the puck into the slot, somehow finding a Bruins stick despite the presence of both Henrik Sedin and Christian Ehrhoff.
Was the pass intended for Bergeron, who was the one that whacked it just off the far post and in?
"I don't know," Bergeron said. "But, I was ready. Recchi tried to shoot, and obviously it was perfect because I was ready, as well, behind him. We sort of surprised them."
What about the shot?
"Well, post and in … you can't ask for anything better, can you?" Bergeron said, smiling.
"He does it all the time in practice," Thomas said, laughing. "Don't let him fool you."
Thomas was glad to see Bergeron do it in the most important game of his career, giving the Bruins a bit of breathing room. At the time, he didn't realize even more breathing room was on its way.
"I was hoping someone else would score so I wouldn't have to shut them out," Thomas, the Conn Smythe winner, said. "I was happy going into the game, talked about not getting too high. If we do score, you can't act like you've won the Stanley Cup because you will get an emotional high and it will end up showing on the ice.
"I was just trying to stay level. It was just one goal. It was a huge goal, the game-winning goal, but at that time, there was still a lot of game and a lot of work left to do."
But, Boston did the work that Thomas believed they needed to do and, as their reward, they delivered the franchise its first Stanley Cup in 39 years.
It is really special. I had a lot of friends and family here tonight, and for my first [NHL] game in here it was great. I played here as an elementary-school player in the city championships and this was my first time back. It was a lot of fun.
— Toronto native Brandon Pirri after scoring 2 goals for Panthers in win at Maple Leafs on Thursday