VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Boston Bruins couldn’t have enjoyed the scenery late Saturday night while their team bus crawled through the raucous street party that consumed downtown Vancouver after the Canucks moved halfway to their first NHL title.
Maybe the Stanley Cup finals’ move to the East Coast will finally give the Bruins something to celebrate.
With Game 3 looming Monday night at TD Garden after a quick cross-continent trip Sunday, the Bruins realize the jam they brought back from Canada isn’t sweet.
Only four teams have rallied from an 0-2 finals deficit in 46 tries. Boston must win four of the next five games to beat the Canucks, the NHL’s best regular-season team and the winner of seven of their past eight playoff games.
“We’ll be disappointed, and we’re allowed to be,” said 43-year-old Mark Recchi, who ended an 11-game goal drought with a power-play score in Game 2. “But we’ll take a lot of positives out of these games. When we get off that plane, we’ll forget all about it. We’ll worry about Monday, and doing our job at home.”
Recchi is right: The Bruins probably shouldn’t spend any time contemplating the historic depth of their plight.
Boston has rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win a series just once in 27 tries — although it happened in the first round of this postseason against Montreal.
“Now is not the time to squeeze your stick and to panic,” Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said after the team arrived in Boston on Sunday afternoon. “It’s time to go back to what’s been giving us success. … Squeezing our sticks is not going to help us at all. We’ve got to go out there, play our game, make sure we play loose, and at the same time play hard and desperate.”
The Bruins are still smarting from their late struggles in Game 2, in which they lost for just the third time in 41 games this season when they had a lead after two periods. Vancouver dominated the third period for the second straight finals game, with Daniel Sedin tying it midway through before Alex Burrows won it with his thrilling wraparound goal 11 seconds into overtime.
“We have four lines that go out there and play the same way,” said Sedin, the NHL scoring champion. “We get pucks deep. We forecheck really hard. It wears teams down. It’s been like this the whole season. It’s nothing new for us. I think when we’re at our best, we usually have a lot of success in the third period.”
Coach Claude Julien will remind his Bruins that they largely played well in two one-goal losses. Their defense held the Canucks’ top line scoreless for the first five periods of the series, bullying Daniel and Henrik Sedin into ineffectiveness.
What’s more, Boston still hasn’t lost a Game 3 in the postseason, even winning a pressure-packed game at Montreal in the first round after losing the first two games at home.
“The positive is we basically lost both games by one goal,” Boston forward David Krejci said. “That hurts, but we know we’re in the game and we know we can do it.”
Yet cracks already have appeared on Boston’s surface in the finals.
The Sedin twins’ line broke through for the tying goal in the third period of Game 2 with a beautiful passing display after forcing a turnover by workhorse Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
The same line was on the ice to start overtime — thanks to a nifty bit of gamesmanship by Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault, who ordered his top line onto the ice moments before the puck dropped — when Burrows scooted past Chara, around goalie Tim Thomas and behind the net for the electrifying winner.
“I thought we took over (with) five minutes left in the second period,” captain Henrik Sedin said. “You could see they were maybe a little bit tired, and that’s when we came hard at them.”
Chara and partner Dennis Seidenberg have played superbly throughout the postseason, and Chara was on the ice for more than 28 minutes against Vancouver in Game 2. But the Sedins weren’t alone in thinking Chara appeared to tire as the game went on.
Vancouver is trying to wear out the 6-foot-9 star by sticking to a strategy of constant physical collisions, even if the Canucks take the worst of those crashes. By finishing their checks on the hulking defenseman, the Canucks believe they can wear him — and it showed in Chara’s numerous misplays and turnovers.
“I guess all of a sudden you lose a game, and now we’re going to start wondering about certain players,” Julien said in Chara’s defense. “I think it’s really about our whole team. It’s not about Zdeno.”
Yet Julien already made a move to rest Chara, taking him out of the slot and putting him back on the point, where he’ll take less punishment.
“I don’t think we played very well, to what our standards are all about,” Julien added. “I think the decision-making, the puck management, it’s what’s costing us games. When you turn pucks over in the neutral zone, this is a team that thrives on it. We know that they thrive on it, yet we kept turning pucks over in the neutral zone.”
If they hope to get back in the finals, the Bruins will need goals from players who didn’t grow up in the Vancouver area. British Columbia natives Milan Lucic and Recchi scored in Game 3, but Boston has just three goals in its last three games going back to the conference finals.
That’s not enough help for goalie Tim Thomas, who has his own problems: He was caught too far away from his net on both of the Canucks’ late goals in Game 2. The Vezina Trophy finalist isn’t about to change his aggressive style, but the Canucks might have figured out how to manipulate it to their advantage.
What’s more, Roberto Luongo has been solid for the Canucks, stopping 64 of the 66 shots he faced. The Olympic gold medal-winning goalie is two games from his first Stanley Cup title, but the Canucks’ former captain is determined to keep Vancouver focused on the work ahead in Boston.
“That’s what playoffs are all about,” Luongo said. “You don’t want to get too high after a win and too low after a loss.
“(Game 2) is a big win for us, but you’ve almost immediately got to put it behind you and start focusing on the next one. We know going into Boston, it’s not going to be easy. We want to make sure we’re focusing on the next one, not on what we just accomplished.”