BOSTON — Revenge is a tawdry, pointless concept to Tim Thomas.
Boston’s superb goalie says the Bruins’ two near-perfect performances at home in the Stanley Cup finals weren’t about getting vengeance for Nathan Horton’s season-ending concussion. Boston is only thinking about getting Horton a championship ring and a drink from that silver trophy.
After a dominant two-game stretch at home, the Bruins are halfway there.
Thomas made 38 saves in his third shutout of the postseason, Rich Peverley scored two goals after replacing Horton on Boston’s top line, and the Bruins evened the finals at two games with a 4-0 victory over the flailing Vancouver Canucks in Game 4 on Wednesday night.
“Every time this year that we’ve faced adversity as a team, we’ve rose to the challenge,” Thomas said. “We needed to do it one more time, because we were down 2-0 (in the series). Now we’ve done that for two games. The challenge for us will be to keep doing that.”
The finals are now a best-of-three, with Game 5 in Vancouver on Friday night.
The Bruins steamrolled through Game 4 on an emotional high from a stirring pregame tribute to Horton, who will miss the rest of the series after a late hit from Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome in Boston’s 8-1 victory in Game 3.
Horton showed up in the Bruins’ locker room after the game, thrilling his teammates and presenting the jacket — a tattered, kitschy ’80s Bruins jacket that’s been turned into a traveling team trophy for the most important player in every Boston victory — to Peverley.
“Watching him going down, we want to finish what we started for him,” Thomas said. “To be honest with you, we want to do it all for ourselves and for each other. You have to have that drive, or you probably wouldn’t have arrived in the finals where we’re at right now. So it’s had some impact, but it would be hard to put a number on a percentage of how much of an impact it’s had.”
Michael Ryder and Brad Marchand also scored, and the Bruins chased Roberto Luongo early in the third period after Vancouver’s star goalie allowed his 12th goal in less than two brutal games in Boston.
Game 6 is Monday night back in Boston. After outscoring Vancouver 12-1 in the past two games, the Bruins are halfway to their first NHL title since 1972 — but they’ll have to win at least once on the West Coast.
“You don’t get to where you are without going through adversity,” said Boston coach Claude Julien, who looked like a bit of a genius using the unheralded Peverley on his top line.
“That’s how you grow. That’s what I’d like to attribute this to. We’ve been through some tough times. We’ve had our ups and downs. You have to battle through those moments.”
Boston opened its first finals trip in 21 years with two deflating one-goal losses last week in Vancouver, but the Bruins have wrested all momentum from the suddenly shaky Canucks.
Luongo gave up four goals on 20 shots before Cory Schneider replaced him, ending yet another feckless defensive performance for the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks, who were inexplicably passionless in Boston.
“We have two out of three with home-ice advantage, and that’s what we’ve worked for all season,” Luongo said. “We need to get playing the way we did in the first two games.”
Vancouver needed just one victory in Boston to earn the chance to win the franchise’s first championship on home ice Friday night.
Instead, the Canucks headed home with huge questions about their mental toughness, defense and goaltending.
“It’s not for lack of effort, not for lack of trying to win,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. “Give the other team credit. They’re playing a smart game, and right now they’ve been able to shut us down offensively the last two games.”
Thomas was flawless yet again in a playoff run that’s turning into the defining achievement of his winding career. He has allowed just five goals in four games in his first Stanley Cup finals, with Vancouver’s vaunted Sedin twins — the NHL’s past two scoring champions — failing to beat him.
And despite the NHL’s warning to these teams about keeping their competition between the whistles, the third period featured another handful of skirmishes — and Thomas was in the middle of the biggest. He delighted Boston’s fans when he slashed Vancouver agitator Alex Burrows with 1:51 to play, precipitating another brawl that left Thomas without his helmet.
“I thought I’d give him a little love tap,” Thomas said. “Let them know that I know what you’re doing, but I’m not going to let you do it forever. That’s all that was. A typical battle.”
The Bruins are winning most of them, partially on motivation from Horton’s injury.
Before the game, Bobby Orr — the Hall of Fame defenseman and Boston icon — wore his own No. 4 jersey as he waved a flag bearing Horton’s No. 18, drawing thunderous cheers while standing in the lower bowl under a spotlight. Hundreds of Canucks fans in blue jerseys joined in the cheers for Horton, who scored the winning goals in both of Boston’s Game 7 victories during these playoffs.
With the victory secure in the final minutes, the entire building loudly chanted Horton’s name.
Peverley, a Bruins newcomer after a late-season trade from Atlanta, lined up with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. The hardworking forward isn’t known for his scoring touch, but came through twice in the new role — even if the second goal came from a pass that bounced off his body as he drove the net.
Boston went ahead midway through the first period after Krejci alertly tapped a loose puck in the neutral zone ahead to Peverley, who blew past Raffi Torres and scored just his second goal in 19 games.
The Canucks are a mess on defense after losing top blueliner Dan Hamhuis to an injury in Game 1 before Rome’s suspension. Keith Ballard struggled as Rome’s replacement, making a turnover on Boston’s third goal, but Vancouver played generally shoddy team defense in front of Luongo, who hasn’t shaken his reputation for struggling in big games — even with an Olympic gold medal.
Vancouver’s power play, the NHL’s best in the regular season, also has lost its mojo, going 0 for 6 in Game 4 to drop to 1 for 22 in the series. The Sedin twins have barely made an impact on this series under Boston’s steady defensive pressure.
“We’re not going to sweep someone in the finals,” Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin said. “They have too good of a team. I don’t think anybody can win if their top players aren’t scoring. There’s three games left. We can’t be frustrated.”
The Canucks have been routed before in this postseason, losing consecutive games to Chicago by a combined 12-2 after taking a 3-0 lead in that first-round series.
Perhaps the Canucks’ only good news out of Boston is that the home team is dominating this series — and they’ve got two more potential home games.
Vancouver soundly outshot Boston over the first 30 minutes of Game 4, yet the Canucks had few solid scoring chances.
After Peverley’s early goal, Ryder scored midway through the second period on an innocuous shot that somehow fluttered past Luongo. Boston took control 1:18 later during 4-on-4 play when Patrice Bergeron forced Ballard’s turnover behind the Canucks’ net and chipped it in front to Marchand, who easily scored over Luongo’s left shoulder.
NOTES: Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin was back in the lineup in Horton’s absence, earning an assist on Ryder’s goal. … Henrik Sedin took his first shot of the series in the opening seconds of Game 4. The pass-first playmaker didn’t have a shot in the first three games. … The Bruins improved to 10-1 when scoring first in the postseason.