VANCOUVER, British Columbia — While the Boston Bruins beelined across the ice to mob him at the buzzer, Tim Thomas tapped both goalposts, sank to his knees and rubbed the ice in front of his empty goal.
Thomas drew a virtual line in his crease throughout these crazy, contentious Stanley Cup finals, and Boston’sbrilliant goalie just wouldn’t allow the Vancouver Canucks to cross it whenever it really mattered.
After 39 years without a championship, the Bruins ripped the Cup — and several thousand hearts — out of a Canadian city that has waited four decades itself for one sip.
The Cup is headed back to the Hub of Hockey.
The 37-year-old Thomas made 37 saves in the second shutout of his landmark finals performance, Patrice Bergeron and rookie Brad Marchand scored two goals apiece, and the Bruins beat the Canucks 4-0 Wednesday night to win their first NHL championship since 1972.
“I think I went even further than I thought,” Thomas said. “I was scared, I won’t lie. I had nerves yesterday and today, and I faked it as best as I could, and I faked it all the way to the Stanley Cup.”
Nice try, Tim. There’s nothing fake about Thomas, who limited the NHL’s highest-scoring team to eight goals in the seven-game finals, blanking Vancouver in two of the last four — including Game 7, the only win by a road team in the series.
The oldest Conn Smythe Trophy winner in NHL history stopped a jaw-dropping 238 of the Canucks‘ 246 shots in the finals for a .967 save percentage. That’s even better than his .940 mark and 1.98 goals-against average for the entire postseason.
“If I was going to do it any way, it would have to be the hardest way possible,” said Thomas, who played overseas and in the minors before finally getting his NHL break in 2005. “Three Game 7s in the playoffs, and to have to win it on the road in the final.”
The Bruins are the first team in NHL history to win a Game 7 three times in the same postseason, and Thomas posted shutouts in the decisive game of the Eastern Conference finals and the Stanley Cup finals. The Bruins‘ postgame celebration centered around Thomas, who carried them through long stretches of a perilous postseason that began with two home losses to Montreal.
The postgame celebration in downtown Vancouver was uglier, with fans setting cars on fire, throwing bottles, trashing cars and staging bonfires while riot police dispersed them with truncheons and shields. The crowd appeared bigger than the estimated 100,000 fans that gathered for Game 5, and the riot raged for hours after the Bruins raised the Cup.
Bergeron stunned the Vancouver crowd with the first goal, getting the eventual game-winner in the first period. His short-handed score late in the second period put the Bruins up 3-0, turning the third period into a virtual wake for the Canucks, who have never won the Stanley Cup in nearly 41 years of existence.
“We got the first goal, and we knew that would be important coming here,” said 43-year-old Mark Recchi, who plans to retire after winning the Stanley Cup with his third franchise. “If they got any chances, Timmy was there, and it was just scary how good he was.”
Zdeno Chara, the Bruins‘ 6-foot-9 captain, nearly slipped under the Stanley Cup’s weight when he skated away from Commissioner Gary Bettman. And the shiny silver trophy eventually got a lift from Nathan Horton, the injured Boston forward whose Game 3 concussion on a late hit irrevocably swung the series’ momentum toBoston.