VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Canucks skated a fine line without falling into a penalty trap Friday night.
Although there was a healthy dose of nastiness, the Canucks were only called for five minor penalties as they handed the Boston Bruins a 1-0 loss in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final, moving within a game of their first ever championship title.
“I think it was more whistle-to-whistle tonight,”said defenceman Kevin Bieksa.“I don’t think there was too many scrums. I can’t remember a whole lot. It was part of our game plan to stay out of that stuff, and we did a good job of it.”
After running into penalty troubles in two games in Boston and allowing the Bruins to erase a 2-0 series deficit with a pair of one-sided wins, the Canucks managed to limit the Bruins to just four power plays.
“They only had four?”asked Bieksa.“It felt like they had a lot more. The referees did a good job of letting us play tonight.”
There were a number of heavy hits and some post-whistle shenanigans that went uncalled. In the second period, Bruins defenceman Brad Ference felled Alex Burrows.
“(A referee) said Burr went to the net, he took a whack at the goalie, so the punch in the face was justified,”said Bieksa.“I don’t understand that ruling.”
Burrows, who was involved in a biting incident with Patrice Bergeron in Game 1 that was reviewed by the league, said the Canucks succeeded in their goal of taking the body and getting physical on the fore-check without getting into penalty trouble.
“We had to walk that fine line, making sure we stayed out of the box,”said Burrows.“But I think, for the most part, we did a good job and we stayed with them for 60 minutes–and we got the result that we were looking for.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien said the physicality was no different than in the previous four games. But he lamented his team’s inability to score on three power-play chances in the first period.
“It's a series that has a lot of body checks,”said Julien.“I know they dominated and, for the first period at least, I know it was about 21 (hits) to 13 or something like that.
“But with the power plays we had and the way we started off the game, the team that's chasing the team that has the puck the most is going to end up with the most body checks. So you got to be careful how you look at those things.”
But the numbers did not back up Julien’s argument. Even though it was the Canucks who had all three of their power plays over the final two periods, compared to just one for the Bruins on Ryan Kesler’s penalty, Vancouver still outhit Boston 47-27 on the night.
“They had an edge tonight,”said Julien.“They were in front of their home fans and they seemed to thrive on that. They came out hard and were a committed group.”