It seemed almost storybook the way Game 4 unraveled. Rich Peverley was promoted to the first line to take injured Nathan Horton’s right wing spot alongside center David Krejci and left wing Milan Lucic.
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On top of that, there was the media’s questioning of how he would stand up to the challenge, a crowd that was infused with energy after Boston legend Bobby Orr participated in pregame activities, and the fact that Peverley was expected to perform equally as well as a record-setting star.
No pressure, right? Not by the looks of it.
In fact, Peverley not only matched expectations, he exceeded them. With two goals in the Bruins’ 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks, he was greeted with more than just cheers from the crowd. When he returned to the locker room, his concussed teammate Horton was there to pass on the 1980s-inspired jacket — an item given to the player of the game after each Bruins contest.
In Monday night’s game, the night Horton was hit by Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome, the players collectively decided to place the tradition-filled jacket in Horton’s locker and keep it there for the remainder of the series. However, Horton wished to carry on the tradition and be the one to hand it off to his replacement, Peverley, without alerting his teammates of his intentions.
“Yeah, we didn’t know he was coming in; he was behind the curtain over there, and everyone saw him and were really excited and started yelling and clapping for him,” Peverley said. “He said that he was really happy with the guys and really proud of how everyone played. Nobody has seen him since everything happened. So to be able to see him and look at him and have a smile on his face and know he’s healthy is important to us.”
Peverley took the bull by the horns and proved early on that he could step up and be the player the Bruins needed. He scored the ever-important first goal of the game, with eight minutes left in the first period. Krejci made a thread-the-needle pass to Peverley through the neutral zone, and Peverley hit it between Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo’s legs to give the Bruins the early lead.
“It was a nice play by Krejci, and I tried to gain a lot of speed,” Peverley said. “I just tried to get a five-hole (shot) snuck through.”
Early in the third, Peverley struck again, this time putting the Bruins up 4-0 with nearly 16 minutes to go in the game. That goal sent Luongo to the bench and kept the Bruins confident for the rest of the game.
Though the public wasn’t alerted to who would be replacing Horton on the first line until warm-ups before the game, linemate Krejci did know. He didn’t say much to Peverley, but he didn’t have to. What he did say managed to help build chemistry, even in the short period of time they have spent together on the line.
“Yeah, we talked about playing together, but we didn’t really get to talk too much,” Krejci said. “I didn’t want to put anything on him. He’s a good player, and if you put too much stuff on him then it’s tough to play and you don’t know what to do, so we try to stay away from it and clear our heads. We have a good way to go, and we did a good job tonight.”
With the win, the Bruins tied the series 2-2 heading back to Vancouver. The Bruins have outscored the Canucks 12-1 in the past two games and, with building momentum, will look to take another win before heading back home for Game 6 in Boston.
“I think the way we played, we came from the drop of the puck, and we didn’t let up for most of the night,” Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. “I mean, they played hard, too; we had some pucks go in and Timmy (Tim Thomas) stood on his head. It’s going to be a great series; we tied it up, and now we are going to have to work on the next one.”