Plenty of things have changed in the last two-plus years, but when the Bruins and Canucks play each other, the same intensity that was created in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final reappears out of thin air.
Boston (36-16-3) beat Vancouver (27-22-9), 3-1, Tuesday at TD Garden, avenging a 6-2 loss at the end of a road trip on Dec. 14. Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic each had a goal and assist while Tuukka Rask made 27 saves. The Garden is still a house of horrors for Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo (29 saves), who was booed by the crowd and mockingly chanted at all game long.
“We hadn’t beaten them since the Final," Rask said. "They are a big, strong team and it seems like there is always a little edge when we play them.”
The Bruins were also motivated by the fact that Zdeno Chara (assist) is heading to Sochi to carry the Slovakian flag at the Opening Ceremonies. That means he’ll miss Boston’s last two games before the break: Thursday in St. Louis and Saturday vs. Ottawa.
“We’re happy for him,” said Lucic. “We’ll all be watching. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent your country like that.”
Lucic opened the scoring against his hometown team 5:12 into the first period after some great passing from linemates David Krejci and Iginla. In the second, Iginla had a power play goal that was remarkable since it all started with a huge stop by Rask on a shorthanded breakaway by Daniel Sedin. Former Canadien Raphael Diaz had Vancouver’s lone goal, ironically in his first game as a Canuck after getting traded yesterday. Daniel Paille’s goal on a breakaway clinched it late in the second after a beautiful stretch pass by Johnny Boychuk found him behind the Canucks’ defense.
Boston is playing very well, 7-2-1 in its last 10 games. The Blues (37-12-5) will pose a big test since they are one of the top teams in the NHL, especially without Chara in the lineup. St. Louis won, 3-2, in a shootout Nov. 21 at the Garden in their only other meeting this season.
What they'll be saying: This was Boychuk’s best game of the season, he played a team-high 24:04 which is foreshadowing what is certain to happen vs. St. Louis and Ottawa with Chara in Russia. At that point, Boychuk will be the senior defensemen with a big of young guys. He was physical with a couple highlight reel hits on David Booth. Bruins head coach Claude Julien cited Boychuk’s effect on the game being similar to Lucic and former Bruin Andrew Ference at times.
Iginla became the 78th player in NHL history to reach 600 assists and only the eighth active guy to do that (he’s now tied with Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis). Along with Lucic (3 goals, 4 assists in last 6 games) and Krejci (3 goals, 8 assists in last 9 games), Iginla is on a roll with four goals and three assists in his last six games. In his 16th year in the NHL, Iginla is still looking for his first Stanley Cup at the age of 36. Julien feels like Iginla has plenty of good hockey left in him.
The Bruins definitely caught the Canucks at the right time: in the middle game of a 5-game road trip and the second night of a back-to-back. Boston hadn’t played since Saturday afternoon while Vancouver lost 2-0 last night in Detroit. Henrik Sedin and head coach John Tortorella both returned to action on Monday but the Canucks are falling apart with five straight losses. Right now they are hanging on to eighth place in the vastly superior Western Conference.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate