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.
Bruins win Stanley Cup
"I think I went even further than I thought," Thomas said. "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 — including Game 7, the only win by a road team in the series.
The oldest Conn Smythe Trophy winner in NHL history stopped a jaw-dropping 238 of the Canucks' 246 shots in the finals for a .967 save percentage. That's even better than his .940 mark and 1.98 goals-against average for the entire postseason.
"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 postgame celebration in downtown Vancouver was uglier, with fans setting cars on fire, throwing bottles, trashing cars and staging bonfires while riot police dispersed them with truncheons and shields. The crowd appeared bigger than the estimated 100,000 fans that gathered for Game 5, and the riot raged for hours after the Bruins raised the Cup.
Bergeron stunned the Vancouver crowd with the first goal, getting the eventual game-winner in the first period. His short-handed score late in the second period put the Bruins up 3-0, turning the third period into a virtual wake for the Canucks, who have never won the Stanley Cup in nearly 41 years of existence.
Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' 6-foot-9 captain, nearly slipped under the Stanley Cup's weight when he skated away from Commissioner Gary Bettman. And the shiny silver trophy eventually got a lift from Nathan Horton, the injured Boston forward whose Game 3 concussion on a late hit irrevocably swung the series' momentum to Boston.
Horton traveled to Vancouver for Game 7 and worked to give the Bruins a home-ice advantage, pouring a bottle of Boston water onto the ice in front of the Bruins' bench 90 minutes before warmups.
"I was just trying to get some Garden ice here and make it our ice," Horton said. "I was trying to be sneaky about it."
"Their goaltender was real tough to beat," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "The way they played in front of him was real tough to beat. We had some Grade A chances, and we were unable to score."
Thomas thoroughly outplayed and outclassed his Vancouver counterpart: Star goalie Roberto Luongo gave up 18 goals in the last five games of the finals. Despite a pregame walk on the Vancouver seawall in his special mind-clearing ritual, the enigmatic netminder capped a brutally inconsistent series by allowing Bergeron's crushing short-handed goal to slip underneath him late in the second period.
Game 7 was another heartbreak for the Canucks and their stunned fans, who stayed by the thousands just to get a glimpse of the trophy. A Canadian club still hasn't won the Stanley Cup since 1993.
"Anybody in our situation right now would feel real disappointed, whether you're the favorite or not," Vigneault said. "We battled real hard. We gave it our best shot. This one game, they were the better team. It's that simple."
Game 7 capped a spectacular collapse by Luongo, who backstopped Canada to Olympic gold medals on this same ice sheet a year ago. Luongo was pulled from the Canucks' last two games in Boston after giving up 15 goals on the road, and he was fatally shaky in Game 7.
Luongo praised his own positional game earlier in the series, but he didn't recover in time to stop Marchand's second-period goal. Five minutes later, he couldn't close his legs on a slowly sliding puck on Bergeron's goal — the seventh allowed by Luongo on the last 21 shots he faced dating back to Game 4.
PHT: Logan Couture shook off an injury earlier in the game to score an overtime goal that gave San Jose a win in Game 3 and trimmed Los Angeles' series lead to 2-1.
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June 16, 2011: Patrick Jones and Mike Milbury wrap up the Stanley Cup finals from Vancouver, and Dan Patrick says the Bruins felt like a team of destiny.
Video: NHL from NBC Sports
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