VANCOUVER - The Stanley Cup winner will not be decided in Game 2, but it certainly could be a tipping point if the Boston Bruins lose.
A Boston loss Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks sends the Bruins home trailing 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. It wouldn't be the end of the road for the Bruins' hopes of winning their first NHL championship in 39 years, but it would make the journey a lot harder.
Teams that win the first two games of the final have a 42-4 record for going on to win the Stanley Cup.
"We want to get back into this series,'' Boston centre Patrice Bergeron said Friday, after the Bruins practised at Father David Bauer Arena at the University of British Columbia.
"It's the biggest game right now of the series. We're just concentrating on making sure we're coming out of here with a great game. Obviously we want the win.''
The Bruins are not strangers to trailing in a series this spring. Boston lost both games at home in the opening-round against Montreal but went on to defeat the Canadiens in seven games.
They also lost Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final against Tampa Bay, then won that series in Game 7.
The difference now is they are facing a Vancouver team that is favoured to win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Each victory feeds the Canucks' confidence, re-enforcing the belief this is their year.
The hero of Vancouver's 1-0 victory in Game 1 expects the Bruins to come out growling.
"The job for Boston was to come in here and get a split,'' said Raffi Torres, who scored with just 18.5 seconds left in the third period Wednesday. "We know they are going to come out hard.
"They are not a team that is just going to roll over. We expect them to come out flying. It's going to be another good test for us.''
Canuck coach Alain Vigneault said the game is important but his team has to keep things in perspective.
"For them, without a doubt, they're thinking about coming in here and getting at least a split,'' said Vigneault. "We're thinking about keeping home-ice advantage.
"I've said this a thousand times. We're getting ready for every game, one (game) at a time. We put a plan out for the players. We expect them to go out and execute. I thought the first game was a very good game. I expect that to continue in Game 2.''
Canuck centre Manny Malhotra, out since March 16 with a serious eye injury, was back practising with the team Friday. Malhotra had not skated for three days, raising concerns he had suffered a setback in his recovery.
"From one day to the next things had changed," he said. "It didn't feel proper to go on the ice. I took a couple of days off."
Malhotra didn't play in Game 1, as many expected, and remains a question mark for Saturday.
Defenceman Dan Hamhuis did not practise and is also listed as day-to-day.
Hamhuis appeared to suffer a lower body injury in the second period Wednesday. He was hurt either when he sent Boston's Milan Lucic flying helmet-over-skates with a hip check, or when David Krejci cross-checked him in retaliation.
One of the interesting matchups between the Canucks and Bruins is how Daniel and Henrik Sedin deal with massive Boston defenceman Zdeno Chara.
The Swedish twins, whose game is built on puck possession and crisp passes, look like bees buzzing around the six-foot-nine, 255-pound Chara.
"His size, you have to take advantage of,'' said Henrik Sedin, who leads the playoff scoring race with 21 points. "He's big and has a long stick. But if you can move the puck and move your feet, you can use that to your advantage.
"As long as you're five, six feet away, he's going to use the stick to keep you outside.''
Chara said he and partner Dennis Seidenberg can't lose sight of the brothers.
"You always have to be aware of them, where they are on the ice,'' he said. "They're very quick to move the puck.
"They find each other real well. They've looking for each other. You just have to be always looking around, be in the right position.''
The Boston power play remains an issue. The Bruins were 0-6 Wednesday night, including a long 5-on-3.
Overall in the playoffs Boston is 5-for-67 with the man advantage for an embarrassing 7.5 per cent.
The Canucks were also 0-6 Wednesday but have scored 17 times on 66 chances during the playoffs.
Bruins coach Claude Julien raised eyebrows by saying he's seen improvement on his team's power play.
"I think our power play was very good in moving the puck and creating some chances,'' said Julien.
"We had more scoring chances than Vancouver did on the power play.''
The opening game had a nasty edge. There were some body-bruising hits and several scrums.
"That's pretty natural,'' said Chara. "In the finals, you're going to have a lot of emotions, a lot of energy after a few days off.
"Everybody competes harder. Everyone wants to win the battles and races. When you're in the finals, it always picks up.''
The Canucks head into Saturday's game with the confidence of a boxer who knows he can win the fight, even if he loses one or two rounds.
"In the playoffs you have to stay on an even keel,'' said Henrik Sedin. "If you lose a game, you have to go on.
"It's always going to be the first team to four wins.''
The Bruins may carry a little extra edge. They have spent several days in Vancouver, reading the local newspapers, hearing the city's fans talking like the Cup is already in their hands.
"We feel like we deserve to be here and there's a reason why we made it to the Stanley Cup final,'' said Lucic, a Vancouver native.
"There were times where we were the better team last game. It's clear that you guys (the media) aren't giving us much of a chance. We've just got to do whatever we can to prove people wrong.''