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’s brilliant 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.
Thomas was just too good, and the Bruins are the NHL’s best.
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 on Wednesday night to win their first NHL championship since 1972.
“I think I went even further than I thought,” Thomas said. “I never envisioned three Game 7s in one playoff season and still being able to come out on top. … 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.
The oldest Conn Smythe Trophy winner in NHL history stopped 201 of the Canucks’ 209 shots in the finals.
“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’ postgame celebration centered around Thomas, who carried them through long stretches of a perilous postseason that began with two home losses to Montreal. 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.
Bergeron quieted the crowd with the first goal, scoring the eventual game-winner in the first period. He added a short-handed score in the second to keep the Cup away from the Canucks, who have never won it 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.”