In a mere 11 seconds, Alex Burrows used the strengths of the Boston Bruins’ two best defensive players against them.
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In one electric moment, the Vancouver Canucks’ scrappy forward made sure he’ll be remembered for something other than his infamous bite in the Stanley Cup finals.
Everybody knew Burrows was fast. Just not this fast.
Burrows circled the net and scored a stunning goal right off the overtime faceoff, capping a three-point night and ending the Canucks’ 3-2 win in Game 2 Saturday night with the second-speediest overtime goal in NHL playoff and finals history.
Vancouver took a 2-0 lead in the finals heading to Boston for Game 3 on Monday thanks to the brilliance of Burrows, who avoided suspension for this game after being accused of biting Boston’s Patrice Bergeron in Game 1 – but still endured criticism from fans and media.
”My parents don’t really like the negative press I get sometimes,” Burrows said. ”It hurts them, not me. My dad told me I should go out and score some goals, because that’s what’s really going to hurt them.”
Burrows scored on a power play in the first period, and he even set up Daniel Sedin’s tying goal midway through the third period with a sharp pass from the slot.
And after the overtime draw, Burrows received a pass from Sedin and streaked down the side, eluding Boston captain Zdeno Chara behind the net. He extended his stick for a wraparound shot, beating out-of-position goalie Tim Thomas for his second goal of the game.
”As soon as I got the puck, I knew I was going to fake a shot and then try to beat him,” Burrows said. ”I lost the puck in front of Tim Thomas, but I got it back, and I got it in.”
Burrows’ speed turned the strengths of Chara and Thomas into huge problems. Although the 6-foot-9 Chara is a massive obstacle, he wasn’t mobile enough to match Burrows’ slick turn behind the net, not even with his enormous reach.
Thomas is an aggressive goalie with a Vezina Trophy at home, but his aggression sometimes gets him away from the net.
”We knew our scouting report on Thomas,” Burrows said. ”We know he likes to come out and challenge and freeze you, so if I shoot there, I think he stops it and covers all the angles, so I wanted to walk around.”
Burrows’ goal nearly was the fastest OT goal in finals history, taking just a bit longer than Brian Skrudland’s goal for Montreal 9 seconds into Game 2 against Calgary on May 18, 1986.
”Burr comes in to make a sick play,” said NHL scoring champion Sedin, who tied it with 10:23 left in the third period. ”It was crazy. Outreach a 6-(foot)-9 player? I didn’t think he was going to be able to score from where he was. I don’t know what happened, but it was really nice to see it go in.”
Roberto Luongo made 28 saves for the Canucks, and Thomas stopped 30 shots for the Bruins. He was left lamenting his positional error after another otherwise strong finals game, which ended with his net unguarded.
”A mistake is a mistake, no matter what,” Thomas said. ”You’ve just got to move on.”
Only four teams have rallied from an 0-2 series deficit to win the Stanley Cup finals in 46 tries, although Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins did it against Detroit in 2009.
Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic scored for the Bruins, who trailed 0-2 in the first round against Montreal – losing both games at home – before rallying to win the series in seven games.
”It was better today than in Game 1, and we’re going to have to keep that up if we want to score some more goals,” Lucic said.
Recchi put the Bruins ahead in the second period with a power-play goal just 2:35 after Lucic scored Boston’s first goal of the finals. Recchi, the NHL’s oldest active player at 43, ended the Bruins’ 5-for-68 power-play drought with a deflection from the slot.
”I think we lost the game ourselves,” Boston forward David Krejci said. ”Obviously they played well, but we had the game in our hands and we just gave it away.”
The Canucks got a pregame boost from the inspirational return of center Manny Malhotra, who hadn’t played since incurring a career-threatening eye injury on March 16. The Canucks also played without top defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who missed his first game of the playoffs after getting hurt midway through Game 1 while delivering a check. Andrew Alberts filled in, playing his first game in four weeks.
But until Sedin’s late goal, Boston played a second straight game of impressive shutdown defense against Vancouver’s vaunted top line featuring the NHL’s last two scoring champions – Daniel and twin brother Henrik Sedin.
Turns out the Bruins should have been paying attention to Burrows, their less-heralded linemate who has 17 points in the postseason.
”We’re not a team that panics,” Vancouver center Ryan Kesler said. ”We’re a team that bears down. If we’re going to lose, we’re going to lose giving it our all. Every shift counts in the playoffs, and we battle right to the end.”
Burrows scored his first goal while skating on Vancouver’s second-team, power-play unit with just 12 seconds left in the man advantage, taking a short pass from Chris Higgins and flicking a shot under Thomas’ arm.
The Bruins had scored just one goal in their previous seven periods of playoff hockey before Lucic finally ended the drought in the second period. The Vancouver native bulled into the slot and batted the rebound of Johnny Boychuk’s shot under Luongo’s extended pad.
The goal ended Luongo’s playoff shutout streak at 137 minutes, 26 seconds.
Recchi put the Bruins ahead 2:35 later, scoring just their second road power-play goal of the entire postseason. The veteran forward from nearby Kamloops, British Columbia, artfully deflected a heavy shot by Chara, who moved back to the point on Boston’s power play after playing in front of Luongo in Game 1.
The Bruins had just one goal on the power play in six games before Recchi scored. Recchi, who plans to retire if the Bruins win the Cup, hadn’t scored in 11 previous playoff games since April 30.
The Sedins’ line finally connected midway through the third period after Daniel took the puck away from Chara in Boston’s end. Burrows eventually found Daniel Sedin on the other side of Thomas’ net, and the Hart Trophy finalist fired home his ninth goal of the postseason.
Malhotra seemed unlikely to make an impact on Vancouver’s playoff run when a deflected puck hit him in the face nearly three months ago. He needed two operations around his left eye, yet the cerebral faceoff specialist and defensive forward surprised the Canucks with his rapid recovery, returning to practice three weeks ago.
After a false start before Game 1, Malhotra was ready Saturday. When he stepped on the ice wearing a full face shield for pregame warmups, Vancouver’s fans rose and roared, waving white towels – and when his face appeared on the scoreboard between warmups and the opening faceoff, the crowd chanted his name.
When Malhotra stepped onto the ice 1:48 into the first period for a faceoff at center ice, he got an arena-shaking ovation – and he won the draw cleanly.
Malhotra played nearly 7 1/2 minutes and won 86 percent of his faceoffs.
Vancouver is chasing the first NHL title in its four-decade franchise history after two previous failed trips to the finals. The Bruins haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1972, losing their last five finals appearances.
NOTES: The Canucks haven’t lost at home since May 7. … Alberts hadn’t played since May 3, sitting out nine games as a healthy scratch. … Thomas broke Andy Moog’s franchise record for minutes played in a single postseason. Moog played 1,196 minutes during Boston’s run to the 1990 finals. … Vancouver native Cobie Smulders, who plays an avid Canucks fan on CBS’ ”How I Met Your Mother” and in real life, attended the game with her partner, Taran Killam of ”Saturday Night Live.”