Notes: Goalies dominate Stanley Cup Finals opener

CBSSports.com wire reports
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Last season's Stanley Cup Finals were a goal-scoring bonanza. If the Vancouver Canucks' series-opening win was any indication, this year's finals will be a goaltending duel.

Roberto Luongo made 36 saves for Vancouver, and Boston's Tim Thomas stopped the first 33 he saw before Raffi Torres scored with 18.5 seconds left in the Canucks' 1-0 win over the Bruins on Wednesday night.

Last year's Cup Finals opener also was a one-goal game, but Chicago beat Philadelphia 6-5. The teams combined for the most goals in any Stanley Cup Finals game in 18 years, but it happened with rookie Antti Niemi in net for Chicago and journeyman Michael Leighton backstopping the Flyers.

With Vezina Trophy finalists Luongo and Thomas between the pipes in Vancouver, there was little chance of a repeat.

"We've got two of the best goaltenders in the league battling it out," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "So obviously scoring is going to be a challenge."

Luongo, who has posted shutouts to open three of four series in these playoffs, said he knew pretty early it was going to be a goaltending duel. He opened the series with the first shutout by a Vancouver goalie in finals history.

"Probably the drop of the puck in the first period," said Luongo, who recorded the first 1-0 shutout to open a Stanley Cup Final since 1984, when his boyhood idol, Grant Fuhr, stopped 33 in Edmonton's win over the Islanders.

After Thomas made three big saves on point-blank chances in the first minute, Luongo made his best saves against Milan Lucic during the late stages of a four-minute Boston power play in which the Bruins managed nine shots.

"Right away, Timmy made a few big saves in the first few minutes," Luongo said. "Then they got their power plays, and I was feeling pretty good."

Thomas stretched his personal shutout streak to nearly 128 minutes before Torres' goal. The Boston goalie had two shutouts in the last five games of the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay.

"We've battled all playoffs, but we're not out there to say we played a good game and battled," Thomas said. "We're out there to win."

With both goalies looking sharp, Vigneault didn't waste any time trying to get an edge by questioning a penalty given to Alex Burrows for tripping Thomas as both players chased a rebound atop the Boston crease in the second period.

"Obviously two totally different styles of goaltending," Vigneault said. "Our goaltender always plays in the blue [crease], stays in his ice. Their goaltender is always out of the blue and comes into other people's ice. We're going to need a little bit of clarification there, especially when he's initiating contact with our team. I'm sure we'll figure it out."

Vancouver's party

Judging by the jersey-wearing, face-painted masses crowding into downtown Vancouver on Wednesday night, this city's passion for the Canucks has eclipsed even Olympic fever.

"It's like the Holy Grail," Canucks defenseman Sami Salo said of the Stanley Cup. "Nothing compared to the Olympics or the world championships."

Vancouver's fans seem to agree.

The streets around Rogers Arena were a sea of green and blue sweaters at a street party despite Game 1's 5 p.m. local start time, right when most people were just getting off work. Downtown bars had patrons lined up out their doors, and thousands gathered under threatening clouds for outdoor viewing parties on giant screens.

A live DJ entertained players in impromptu street hockey games closer to the arena, and fans milled around a statue of former Canucks coach Roger Neilson waving his infamous white towel from the team's 1982 run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Jim Potter waved money around instead, pulling out a wad of bills and happily shelling out $750 -- double face value -- on the street corner for a pair of upper deck tickets.

"I've been waiting for this my whole life," the 29-year-old fan said. "It's our team, a team we've cheered forever, so in some ways it is bigger than the Olympics."

No Manny

Canucks center Manny Malhotra was unable to return from his career-threatening eye injury in time for the finals opener.

Malhotra hasn't played since a deflected puck hit him in the left eye on March 16, but he returned to practice with Vancouver two weeks ago. He was declared ready to play last weekend, but he missed practice Tuesday, and didn't suit up for Game 1.

Malhotra is a faceoff specialist and an excellent defensive forward. The Canucks used a fourth line featuring Jeff Tambellini, Alexandre Bolduc and Victor Oreskovich.

Green initiative

The NHL is watching its water footprint at the Stanley Cup Finals.

NHL Green, the league's sustainability initiative, unveiled plans Wednesday to make the Finals into the first water-neutral playoff series in league history. The league will restore at least 1 million gallons to Oregon's Deschutes River after tracking every gallon of water used at both Stanley Cup Finals arena -- even in the ice.

"This is a monumental statement on the part of the NHL, its fans, teams, and players," said Todd Reeve, the vice president of watershed programs at the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. "This commitment to match water used on the ice and in the arena with an equal amount restored to a critically dewatered river represents a cutting-edge commitment to sustainability."

The foundation sells water restoration certificates that are used to replenish depleted water sources and damaged ecosystems. Most of the water in the Middle Deschutes River is diverted at Bend, Ore., by water rights holders, according to the foundation.

Notes

  • After losing the first game, Boston has lost all nine of its previous best-of-7 Stanley Cup Finals, although the Bruins haven't even been to the Finals since 1990.
  • The Canucks hope they can maintain a curious pattern for Canadian clubs from cities that hosted the Olympics. The Montreal Canadiens won the 1977 Stanley Cup after their city hosted the 1976 Olympics -- and then the Calgary Flames won the 1989 Cup after the Winter Olympics visited in 1988.
  • Just one of the past seven Presidents' Trophy winners has gone on to win the Stanley Cup, and just seven have done it since the trophy was first awarded in 1986.
  • The Bruins were shut out for the second time in this postseason.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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