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VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA (AP) - Roberto Luongo made nine of his 17 saves during a four-minute penalty kill, and the Vancouver Canucks kept their Stanley Cup finals opener against the Boston Bruins scoreless through the first period Wednesday night.
Both teams entered their first playoff meeting looking to end lengthy Stanley Cup droughts. Vancouver has never won the NHL title in four decades of existence, losing its only two trips to the finals, while Boston has lost five straight finals since winning in 1972.
Vancouver weathered Boston’s lengthy advantage with flair, adding to the Bruins’ playoff struggles on the power play.
High-scoring Vancouver twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin also couldn’t get the puck past Boston goalie Tim Thomas, who made 12 saves in the opening period of the Canucks’ first finals appearance since 1994.
The officials kept both teams on a steady parade to the penalty box in the first period, a big change from the Bruins’ penalty-free Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay.
After a full week off, the Canucks came out with palpable energy from a crowd that shook the arena violently enough to dislodge a bit of confetti left over from the Western Conference finals onto the ice before the game.
The Sedin twins’ line generated three decent scoring chances on the opening shift, but Thomas showed off the scrambling effectiveness that allowed him to lead the Bruins out of the East.
The Bruins then got a four-minute power play 4:03 in when Daniel Sedin caught 6-foot-9 Bruins captain Zdeno Chara with a very high stick. Chara skated to the bench to wipe blood off his face and returned immediately to the ice, taking his spot in the slot to block Luongo’s view of Boston’s shots.
The Bruins’ struggling power play didn’t exactly get going with its lengthy advantage. Vancouver native Milan Lucic had the Bruins’ best chances in the slot late in the waning seconds, but Luongo turned away both shots.
Boston’s power play was mostly hideous in the Eastern Conference playoffs, managing five goals in 61 chances.
Luongo started out strong in his attempt to win the Stanley Cup for the first time on the same ice where he backstopped Canada to the gold medal in last year’s Olympics.
Both teams engaged in a lengthy scrum after Thomas made a glove save to close the first period, shoving and exchanging shots. Boston forward Patrice Bergeron complained to officials before skating off the ice, holding up his finger for unclear reasons.
Vancouver’s Alex Burrows got a double minor for roughing during the exchange, to one penalty for Bergeron, allowing Boston to start the second period with its fourth power play.
Vancouver was the NHL’s best team in the regular season, setting franchise records with 54 wins and 117 points while winning the Presidents’ Trophy. Boston finished third in the East and survived a nail-biting first-round series with Montreal before outlasting the Lightning in the conference finals to reach its first Stanley Cup finals since 1990.
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