x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Torres breaches Boston defence in tight Stanley Cup opener

Hansen slots perfect pass to the Canuck forward as Vancouver breaks valiant Bruins' defence

Raffi Torres, front, was unemployed in the summer, but the Vancouver Canucks decided to take a chance on him. He scored the last minute winner in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Raffi Torres, front, was unemployed in the summer, but the Vancouver Canucks decided to take a chance on him. He scored the last minute winner in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Through 59 scoreless minutes in the first game of the Stanley Cup finals, the Vancouver Canucks were profoundly frustrated. Their star players could not solve Boston's formidable defence and their vaunted power play was punchless.

Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen still had one last trick, however, and they needed only an instant to connect on a goal that gave the Canucks an early edge in the chase for their first Stanley Cup title.

Torres scored on an exceptional pass from Hansen with 18.5 seconds to play, and Vancouver stunned the Boston Bruins 1-0 on Wednesday night.

Torres put a slick redirection past the Boston goaltender Tim Thomas to score the latest go-ahead goal in a finals game since 1992, when Mario Lemieux connected with 13 seconds left in Pittsburgh's series-opening win over Chicago.

"I heard Raffi yelling," Hansen said with a grin. "It was easy to hear him."

Roberto Luongo made 36 saves in his third shutout of the play-offs for the Canucks, but Thomas matched him until Torres, the only Vancouver player with previous finals experience, slipped through the Bruins' defence for a goal that launched a wild celebration at Vancouver's Rogers Arena.

"Just got to get open," Torres said he remembered thinking. "(Hansen) made a great play there to get it over. I was fortunate enough to get it in the back of the net."

Game 2 is tomorrow night in Vancouver.

The Canucks have won all four series openers in the play-offs, with Luongo also posting shutouts against Chicago and Nashville.

"I thought we were going to play all night the way it was going," Luongo said. "It was an exciting way to start the series. It was such a close game. It could have gone either way, a flip of the coin."

Thomas stopped 33 shots for the Bruins, who went scoreless on six power plays. Boston also killed six Vancouver power plays in an outstanding defensive game, until the final minute, against the NHL's highest-scoring team.

The winning sequence started with Ryan Kesler, who controlled a Boston turnover along the boards and eventually slipped the puck across the ice to Hansen. The Danish forward spotted Torres streaking toward the net and floated a pass right to him, setting up Torres's third goal of the play-offs.

The redheaded forward lost the 2006 Stanley Cup finals with Edmonton, but was out of a job this summer until Vancouver took a chance on him.

"We brought him in because he was an emotional, physical player," said Alain Vigneault, the Vancouver coach. "He's had nothing but a great attitude and a great work ethic with us all year long. He comes to play, prepares himself real well. We need him to play the way he does. You know, he's a little bit sometimes outside the box, but you've got to let him be who he is."

The goal ended the shutout streak by Thomas at just under 129 minutes. He had not allowed a goal since Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, shutting out Tampa Bay in Game 7.

"It's a nice goal by them," the Boston coach Claude Julien said. "I thought for the first two periods we played a pretty even game. In the third, we just seemed to lack some energy and lost our legs. They just seemed to come at us pretty hard. They kind of took the game over in the third period and obviously found a way to win it with a late goal."

The Schedule

Stanley Cup finals

Vancouver leads Boston, 1-0

Game 1: Vancouver 1, Boston 0

Tomorrow: at Vancouver

Monday: at Boston

June 8: at Boston

June 10: at Vancouver-x

June 13: at Boston-x

June 15: at Vancouver-x

x-if necessary