Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand(notes) jumped up and down screaming after the puck sailed into the empty Vancouver Canucks net, knowing that his rookie season would conclude as the hero of Game 7 in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
Marchand scored two goals and added an assist as the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup championship, 4-0, in Vancouver. It was the franchise's first NHL title since 1972.
A tenacious 23-year-old forward whose agitating game has earned him comparisons to Bruins great Ken "The Rat" Linseman, Marchand totalled 11 goals in the playoffs, increasing the Boston rookie playoff record he broke with the opening tally in the Bruins' Game 6 victory.
But the backbone of the Boston Cup victory was Tim Thomas(notes), the 37-year-old blue-collar netminder who outplayed and outclassed his heralded counterpart Roberto Luongo(notes) in the seven-game series.
Thomas won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, stopping 201 of 209 shots for the series.
"I can't believe it's over," said Thomas on NBC after the game. "Being the last game, we didn't save anything. That was the difference."
Luongo gave up 15 goals in three games in Boston, but had stopped 95 of 97 shots in his previous three wins at home. After making some candid comments about Tim Thomas' goaltending style after Game 5, Luongo surrendered seven goals to Thomas' two in the final two games.
"I told him 'I want you to know you're a great goalie,'" Thomas said when asked what he told Luongo on the postgame handshake line. Luongo had previously complained that Thomas didn't "pump his tires" during the series while Luongo had complimented him.
The Vancouver Canucks, the league's best team in the regular season, remained without a Stanley Cup since joining the NHL in 1970, losing in the Final for the third time. Boston won the last two games of the series to claim the Stanley Cup, becoming the first team in the series to win a game on the road with their Game 7 victory.
Boston broke through at 14:37 of the first period.
Patrice Bergeron(notes) lost a faceoff in the offensive zone, but rookie Marchand alertly skated in to gain possession. He curled around defenseman Sami Salo(notes), allowing his teammates to plant themselves in front of Luongo. Mark Recchi(notes), the 22-year veteran, allowed the pass to slip by to Bergeron, who scored low to Luongo's right for the 1-0 lead.
In the second period, it was Marchand again making a key play.
Again, he went to the corner and protected the puck, before sending it back for a Dennis Seidenberg(notes) point shot that hit Luongo high. Marchand collected the rebound, slipped behind the net and put the puck into Luongo on a wraparound with the goaltender poking it into his own net on a scrambling save. Boston took a 2-0 lead.
Then, it was 3-0 on this Patrice Bergeron short-handed goal.
Zdeno Chara(notes) was in the penalty box for interference. The Canucks power play, looking tired but kept out on the ice as coach Alain Vigneault refused to use a timeout, fumbled the puck at its own blue line as Bergeron broke away with the puck into the Vancouver zone. He was wrestled down by defenseman Christian Ehrhoff(notes); a penalty was called, but the puck trickled in off Bergeron's body past Luongo for the 3-0 lead.
Marchand's empty-netter at 17:16 clinched the win for Boston.
Each team used an injured player for inspiration for Game 7.
Vancouver's Mason Raymond(notes) had his back broken on a Johnny Boychuk(notes) hit in Game 6, but flew from Boston and appeared on the Rogers Arena Jumbotron at 12:33 of the first period, wearing a protective brace around his torso.
Boston star Nathan Horton(notes), who suffered what the team called a severe concussion in Game 3 on a hit that earned Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome(notes) a four-game suspension, traveled with the Bruins to Vancouver. He had his jersey and equipment in a dressing room stall, and poured water from Boston on the ice before the game for a little hockey voodoo.
It worked. The Boston Bruins, who won three Game 7s in the 2011 playoffs, captured the Stanley Cup, with 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara raising hockey's Holy Grail higher than it's ever been hoisted.
He handed it to Mark Recchi, the team's 43-year-old winger who will likely retire after this series.
Recchi's first season in the NHL came one year after Brad Marchand was born. Yet their blue-collar mentality and championship drive spans those generations -- and resulted in the Bruins capturing hockey's ultimate prize.