BOSTON – The Boston Bruins gingerly tapped their sticks on the ice while medical personnel wheeled Nathan Horton out of the hushed arena through the Zamboni tunnel, his neck fixed in a brace after a late hit to the head from Vancouver’s Aaron Rome.
Horton’s teammates needed a few minutes to clear their minds after such a frightening injury. When they finally got their heads together, they created an offensive avalanche that got them right back in this series.
Andrew Ference and David Krejci each had a goal and an assist during Boston’s four-goal second period, Tim Thomas made 40 saves, and the Bruins beat the Canucks 8-1 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals Monday night, trimming Vancouver’s series lead to 2-1.
Game 4 is Wednesday in Boston.
“It’s always tough when a guy goes down,” said forward Brad Marchand, who scored a short-handed goal in the second period.
“We really wanted to get this win tonight for him. It’s a very tough situation, and everyone is worried about him, but it gave us motivation to win.”
Boston burst out of a three-game offensive slump one period after Horton was taken off the ice on a stretcher 5 minutes into the game, rendered senseless by Rome’s check in the neutral zone. Horton was talking and moving his extremities after going to a hospital.
Mark Recchi scored two goals for the Bruins, who turned a big win into a blowout with four more goals in the final 8 1/2 minutes of the third period. Boston produced its highest-scoring playoff game since getting nine goals on April 20, 1983.
“We talked a lot about playing for Horty,” said the 43-year-old Recchi, the oldest player to score a goal in the finals. “He’s been a great teammate for us all year. It’s tough to see your teammate down on the ice. We knew it was a late hit, but we’re a little more concerned with his health at this point.”
Boston had managed just three goals in its previous 10 periods before torching Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, who stopped 30 shots. The Bruins hadn’t even scored six goals in a finals game since May 5, 1970, in Game 2 against St. Louis on the way to their last title.
Daniel Paille scored a short-handed goal in the third, and Recchi, Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder – who finished with three points – scored in the final 2 1/2 minutes as the Bruins avoided a daunting 0-3 series deficit.
Jannik Hansen broke up Thomas’ shutout bid with 6:07 to play for the Canucks, who finally hit a major bump in their late-season roll toward their first Stanley Cup title.
“Still 2-1 for us. Luckily, we are not playing with an aggregate score,” Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. “Next game is huge for us, and if we take care of that, we are in a great position. You don’t want to lose 8-1. It’s embarrassing at this time of year.”
NHL scoring champion Daniel Sedin got a 10-minute misconduct late in the jarring loss for the Presidents’ Trophy winners, who had won seven of eight games. The Canucks had given up just six total goals in their previous four games.
“In the playoffs, a loss is a loss, if you lose in OT or you lose like we did tonight,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said.
The Bruins were one goal shy of equaling the finals record of nine goals, set by Detroit in Game 2 of the 1936 series and matched by Toronto six years later in Game 5. The eight goals were the most scored in the finals since Colorado topped Florida 8-1 on June 6, 1996.
The palpable excitement of Boston’s first home finals game in 21 years turned into unease just 5 minutes in.
After Horton passed the puck to Milan Lucic at the Vancouver blue line, Rome left his feet to deliver a hard shoulder check to Horton’s upper chest and head. Horton appeared to be unconscious after he landed flat on his back, his arm spookily reaching up into empty space.
“I think what I recall is it was a blindside hit that we’ve talked about taking out of the game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Let the league take care of it. We’re trying to clean that part of the game out.”