Commentary

B's insist they ignored Luongo's jabs

In defense of Thomas, Boston let its play do all the talking

Updated: June 14, 2011, 2:56 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Forward Michael Ryder couldn't quite stifle the smile that gave away that he wasn't exactly being truthful. Asked if bulletin-board comments by Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo gave the Boston Bruins a little extra motivation heading into Monday's Game 6, Ryder did exactly what Luongo should have done and avoided anything that could have raised eyebrows.

"We don't pay much attention to it," said Ryder, whose body language suggested he's someone you'd like to invite to your next poker tournament. "It's a lot of talk. We just want to do the job on the ice."

The Bruins did the job on the ice, erupting for four first-period goals in the span of 4 minutes, 14 seconds and chasing Luongo a mere 8 minutes, 35 seconds into a 5-2 triumph at TD Garden that forced a decisive Game 7 for Lord Stanley's Cup on Wednesday night in Vancouver.

[+] EnlargeRoberto Luongo
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonRoberto Luongo watched from the bench near the end of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Bruins last June.

But don't be fooled. Luongo's comments criticizing the position Boston goalie Tim Thomas took while allowing the only goal in the Canucks' Game 5 victory provided all sorts of motivation for the Bruins.

So while the Bruins said all the right things after Monday's win -- even if players such as Ryder couldn't always keep a straight face while doing so -- they did all of their real talking on the ice.

And it started long before the first-period outburst.

In the warm-up skate, Shawn Thornton sent a literal shot across Luongo's brow, breaking all sorts of hockey decorum with a pregame flick that let the Canucks know their goalie's comments didn't sit well in the Boston locker room. (Asked after the game what he said to Luongo, Thornton barked, "Nothing." But Luongo said, "I can't say it on the air.")

It's obvious the Canucks simply don't know when to leave well enough alone.

After winning the first two games of the series, Aaron Rome shook the Bruins from their Stanley Cup slumber in Game 3 with a late hit that left Nathan Horton sidelined for the rest of the series with a severe concussion. Boston went on to win that game, 8-1, and blanked Vancouver in Game 4 to even things up.

After a gritty 1-0 win in Game 5, Luongo couldn't resist a shot at Thomas for, in his mind, being out of position to make a save on the game's only goal.

"It's not hard if you're playing in the paint," said Luongo, echoing criticism from Vancouver about Thomas' positioning throughout this series. "It's an easy save for me, but if you're wandering out and aggressive like he does, that's going to happen. He might make some saves that I won't, but in a case like that, we want to take advantage of a bounce like that and make sure we're in a good position to bury those."

And Luongo didn't aid his cause with a chance to explain himself after that comment landed him in the off-day headlines.

"I have been pumping [Thomas'] tires ever since the series started," Luongo said. "I haven't heard one nice thing he had to say about me."

Marchand We weren't too worried about that in here. [Luongo] can say what he wants to say. We were just trying to focus on playing this game.

-- Brad Marchand, on Roberto Luongo's post-Game 5 comments

The Bruins certainly weren't in the mood for verbal bouquets Monday. Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic scored 35 seconds apart early in the first frame and Andrew Ference added a power-play tally 2 minutes later, putting Boston out front, 3-0, and forcing Luongo to the bench, where he had 41 minutes to ponder his comments.

After the game, Boston players and coach Claude Julien were careful with their words, but it wasn't hard to read between the lines.

"We're just focused on doing our job here," Julien said when asked about his team's response to verbal jabs. "This series is getting near the end and the most important thing right now is not what's being said but what's being done. That's what our focus has been about right now. We're going to continue to do that."

Asked a follow-up on Thomas, Julien added, "He's been in the zone for the whole playoffs and you can barely count on one hand how many bad goals he's given up in this whole playoffs. That speaks volumes for him."

So did Boston's outburst.

Entering Monday, this series had featured a mere two first-period goals overall. Boston generated that in the first 6 minutes, 6 seconds of Game 6 and, soon after, doubled it. The Bruins are the first team to score four goals in the first period of a playoff game this season and it was the first time in the finals since the Colorado Avalanche did it in an 8-1 win over the Florida Panthers in Game 2 of the 1996 finals.

Asked about Luongo's comments, nearly all the Bruins punted -- or played dumb.

"I don't even know what he said; I don't read or listen to the media," David Krejci said. "I think we did a pretty good job of focusing on our game."

Said Brad Marchand: "We weren't too worried about that in here. [Luongo] can say what he wants to say. We were just trying to focus on playing this game."

Thomas deferred on offering any technical advice of his own after Luongo couldn't stop Marchand's first-period wrister that ignited the four-goal outburst.

"No, I'm not going to go there," he said. "I would prefer to focus on the fact that Marshy made a great shot and came up big for us and got that first goal that helped lead us to a victory."

The Bruins didn't need any additional motivation Monday night. Their season and a shot to force a winner-take-all Game 7 was enough. But Luongo didn't do his team any favors with his comments, as innocuous as he might have intended them.

Everything is magnified at this time of year, and yet again the Canucks have learned that you simply shouldn't poke the bear.

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics and occasionally the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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