BOSTON — The Boston Bruins put Roberto Luongo and the Stanley Cup back on the shelf.
After another home scoring spree against Vancouver’s wildly inconsistent goalie Monday night, the Bruins are making one last trip west for the big finish to these dramatic Stanley Cup finals.
Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic and Andrew Ference scored in the first 8:35 to chase Luongo from his second straight game in Boston, and the Bruins emphatically evened the finals with a 5-2 victory in Game 6, sending the series to a decisive Game 7 in Vancouver on Wednesday night.
For the sixth time in the last 10 seasons, the finals have been stretched to their limit. The home team hasn’t lost in this series, with Vancouver winning three one-goal games and Boston posting three blowout victories.
“I’m proud of the guys,” said Mark Recchi, who had three assists. “We had our backs to the wall, we’ve been resilient all year, and we came out and had a great first period and did what we had to do tonight, and it comes down to Game 7. It’s one game now.”
League MVP Henrik Sedin scored his first point of the finals with a late power-play goal for the Canucks, who flopped in their first attempt to win their franchise’s first championship. Maxim Lapierre also scored in the third period for the Canucks, who will get one last try at a Rogers Arena filled with worried Vancouverites hoping their maddening team can come through.
Tim Thomas made 36 saves for the Bruins, giving up two third-period goals while burnishing his credentials for the Conn Smythe Trophy as Boston moved one win away from its first championship since 1972.
“He’s been in his zone through the whole playoffs,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “You can barely count on one hand the bad goals he’s given up in the whole playoffs. We all know that teams that have won the Stanley Cup have had unbelievable goaltending. We feel like we’ve got that.”
Thomas has given up just eight goals in six games in a virtuoso performance in the finals — but the spotlight in Game 6 was trained squarely on the other net.
After Luongo led Vancouver to the brink of a title with a stellar performance in a 1-0 victory Friday, the Canucks hoped to celebrate in Boston. The Bruins canceled that Garden party with yet another stunning barrage of goals against Luongo, who was ventilated for 15 goals in just over 4½ periods in Boston.
“You can’t hang your head and feel sorry for yourself,” Luongo said. “That’s the worst thing I could do. … I had a good feeling all day. Before the series started, I said I enjoyed playing in this building. Just got to move on right now. Got to believe in myself, right?”
Boston even set a finals record with four goals in 4:14 while chasing Luongo and welcoming his backup, Cory Schneider, with a quick goal from Michael Ryder.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault wasted no time confirming Luongo will start Game 7 in Vancouver, where he already has two shutouts in the series.
“I don’t have to say anything to him,” Vigneault said. “He’s a professional. His preparation is beyond reproach, and he’s going to be ready for Game 7. … It happened. There’s nothing we can do about it. We’ve already turned the page on that, and we’re going back home.”
The Bruins are one win away from their Original Six franchise’s first championship since 1972. Boston has lost its last five trips to the finals since, never even reaching a seventh game — but the Bruins can hang another banner in the Garden rafters with one road win.
And the Bruins have ample experience in Game 7. They’ve already played two in these playoffs, beating Montreal in the first round and Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals — but both of those games were at home, where Boston finished the postseason with 10 wins in its last 11 games.
If Vancouver can’t regroup in the next 48 hours after another East Coast collapse, the Canucks will waste the best regular season in franchise history. Vancouver lost Game 7 of the 1994 finals to Mark Messier’s New York Rangers, and hadn’t been back to the finals since.
Vancouver probably could tell Game 6 was trouble from the opening shift: Second-line forward Mason Raymond was taken to a hospital with an undisclosed injury after he ran into the boards backward and bent at the waist in a collision with Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk. The Canucks gave no immediate details on his injury or condition.
Luongo immediately appeared shaky when Marchand whistled a shot over his left shoulder just 5½ minutes in. Lucic scored 35 seconds later when his innocent shot trickled through Luongo, and Ference finished the goalie with a power-play score 2:29 after that.
After Henrik Sedin finally scored in the opening minute of the third period, playoffs scoring leader David Krejci got his 12th goal during a two-man advantage for Boston, with the 43-year-old Recchi picking up his third assist.
Luongo’s career-long inconsistency has been pronounced in this series, with the Canadian Olympic champion alternating brilliance and borderline incompetence. He also didn’t help himself after Game 5 by indirectly criticizing Thomas’ technique on the Canucks’ winning goal and then claiming Thomas never returns Luongo’s compliments, saying he had been “pumping his tires” all series long.
The Boston crowd would have liked to slash Luongo’s tires, key his driver’s side door and pour sugar in his gas tank. They booed Luongo lustily and chanted his name derisively before Game 6 even began.
Luongo also was pulled from Game 4 in Boston early in the third period after falling behind 4-0 on the heels of the Bruins’ 8-1 victory in Game 3. Luongo has been a sieve in Boston, yet he has given up just two goals in three games in Vancouver.
Boston also will be without Nathan Horton for this Game 7. The power forward had the winning goal in the decisive games against Montreal and Tampa Bay, but is out for the series after getting a concussion in Game 3.
Horton attended Game 6, getting a standing ovation from the Boston crowd when he appeared on the overhead scoreboard in the first period. Boston hardly needed the motivation in a series filled with cheap shots and insults.
While Luongo’s struggles have been limited to the East Coast, the Sedin twins finally showed life for perhaps the first time in the series. The NHL’s last two scoring champions have done a monumental disappearing act in the finals, although they doubled their point total for the entire series when Daniel Sedin assisted on Henrik Sedin’s backhand in the slot for just the second goal of the series by Vancouver’s league-best power play, which dropped to 2 for 31.
Daniel Sedin, the NHL scoring champion, added an assist on Lapierre’s goal, giving him four points in the series.
Thomas has turned in one of the stingiest performances by a goalie in finals history, yet his teammates couldn’t beat Luongo at any important moment in Vancouver. The Canucks won the opener on a final-minute goal and finished Game 2 just 11 seconds into overtime.
The series has been bad-tempered from Game 1, when Vancouver’s Alex Burrows escaped suspension for apparently biting the finger of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron. The teams taunted each other about the incident — but the series got serious when Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome leveled Horton with a late hit.
NOTES: Henrik Sedin hadn’t played five games without a point since the end of the 2006-07 regular season. … Boston D Dennis Seidenberg left the bench for several minutes in the third period, but returned. … The Bruins won for just third time in 20 games when facing playoff elimination in a Game 6 while improving to 4-10 in finals elimination games. … Boston extended a franchise record with its 24th playoff game of the spring. Vancouver matched its 1994 franchise record in its 24th postseason game. … Home teams are 17-2 in the Stanley Cup finals since 2009.
FANS CHEER FOR HORTON: Nathan Horton drew cheers from the home crowd when the injured Boston Bruins forward was shown on the scoreboard during a timeout in the first period of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night.
His teammates joined in by knocking their sticks against the boards, the traditional sign of applause by hockey players.
Horton smiled and waved at the fans. One sign in the crowd read, “Win it for Horton.” Another: “Boston Runs on Horton.”
His season ended at 5:07 of the first period of Game 3 against Vancouver when he suffered a severe concussion on a late hit by Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome, who later was suspended for four games.
The first-line right wing was second on the team with 26 regular-season goals. He later scored the goals that clinched two seven-game series this postseason — in the first round against the Montreal Canadiens and in the third against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
POWERLESS PLAY: The power play has been a dud for both teams in the Stanley Cup finals.
The Vancouver Canucks scored on one of their 25 opportunities in the first five games after posting the best scoring percentage on power plays in the NHL during the regular season. The Boston Bruins were just 3 for 21 on power plays heading into Game 6 on Monday night.
Boston coach Claude Julien has tried various alignments throughout the postseason, even putting 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara in front of the goalie during the Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
At times against Vancouver, Julien has used his top two centers, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, at the same time during a power play. And that’s not only because it gives the Bruins two good faceoff men in case one is booted out of the circle.
“I don’t think we would be putting them there if it was just a faceoff thing,” Julien said. “But … Bergeron and Krejci … are right-handed shots, and whether one of them is on the half wall doesn’t really matter. The other one can be on the goal line. Krejci can make some plays from down low and Bergeron can take pucks at the net.
“We just feel that right now that’s a good scenario for that power play.”
NOTES: Teams who have trailed the Stanley Cup finals 3-2 played Game 6 at home 25 previous times since the best-of-seven format began in 1939, but have won just 10 of those games. And of those 10 winners, only three went on to take Game 7 and win the championship. … Boston C David Krejci went into Game 6 as the NHL postseason leader in at least three categories with 11 goals, 11 assists and four game-winning goals. … A member of four Boston championship teams, 93-year-old Milt Schmidt, waved a black-and-gold Bruins towel that starts the traditional passing of a large banner with the team’s spoked-B emblem around the lower bowl of TD Garden. Schmidt, a center with the Bruins from 1936-37 through 1954-55, played 16 seasons with the team, his entire career. He skipped three years during World War II.