- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- It all comes to down to Game 4.
The 2011 Stanley Cup finals could be decided Wednesday night at TD Garden.
It's this simple: If the Bruins can win Wednesday and even the series at two games apiece, there's a strong possibility Boston can hoist the sacred chalice for the first time since 1972.
If the Canucks prevail on the Garden ice and are able to gain a 3-1 series lead before heading back to Vancouver for Game 5 on Friday, then it's "we'll see you at training camp."
Despite their one-game deficit, the Bruins have momentum. It's not because Boston completely dominated Game 3 en route to an 8-1 thrashing over the Canucks. It's because the Canucks pushed the Bruins a little too far, and now Boston is pushing back in a big way.
As Bruins forward Milan Lucic said after Game 3: "You push us, we're going to push back."
He was referring to the fact that teammate Nathan Horton suffered a season-ending concussion on a brutal late hit by the Canucks' Aaron Rome, who was suspended for the remainder of the series for the incident that occurred early in the first period Monday.
As Horton was being transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, his teammates came out for the second period and completely dominated the Canucks. It was as though the Canucks stuck a stick in the bear's cage and woke up the animal from hibernation.
What makes this situation favor the Bruins even more is the fact that while their teammate has a serious brain injury, the entire Canucks team, including their coach, did not think Rome did anything wrong.
"In my opinion, it's not the right call," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said of Rome's suspension.
At most zoos there's a sign that reads: "Don't feed the animals." Well, the Canucks just got caught with a palm full of peanuts.
Lucic and Horton have become close friends since the newcomer arrived in Boston via trade last summer. They go out to dinner. They attend Red Sox games. They played on the same line until the injury. Safe to say Lucic is motivated.
Horton is to Lucic as Doc Holliday was to Wyatt Earp.
"You definitely want to win for a guy like that," Lucic said of Horton. "He's done so much for our team this year, getting us to this point. You can use it as motivation if you want. Especially for myself, he's made a big impact in my life as a good friend and as a linemate. You can definitely use that as motivation."
Sure, Horton will serve as a motivational factor for the Bruins. He's a great teammate and an incredibly skilled player, but most of all he's a good human being. Still, the Bruins have to focus on the task at hand, and that is to win Game 4.
Because if they don't, it's very possible their dream season will be over once this series shifts back to the Pacific Northwest.
The Horton injury isn't the Bruins' only source of motivation. The fact that the Canucks' Alex Burrows was not suspended for biting the finger of Patrice Bergeron in Game 1, then Burrows ending up scoring two goals, including the game-winner in overtime, of Game 2, has Boston completely fired up behind closed doors.
"We're focused on Game 4 now," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. "All this other stuff, we turned the page on it. We have to have at least the same effort, if not better, for Game 4. We know they're going to be better. We'd like to go up [to Vancouver] 2-2 instead of 3-1, that's for sure."
With Horton out for the remainder of the season, other Bruins players will need to step up and contribute. That includes Michael Ryder, who showed he's up to the task with his performance after Horton was injured.
"We didn't want to go down 3-0," Ryder said. "It was a huge game for us to get back in the series. We have to make sure [Wednesday] we go at it the same way and play the same."
There's no doubt the Bruins will come out and play with the same teeth-shattering, bone-crushing physicality that helped them prevail in Game 3. That is Bruins hockey. It's that type of emotion that will serve as the blueprint if Boston wants to etch its name on Lord Stanley's Cup.
It started with an emotional win in Game 3. It needs to continue with a victory in Game 4.
If Boston wins Wednesday night, then Vancouver could be in serious trouble.
"Both teams want that trophy," Thornton said. "Everyone's going to do whatever they can to try and make that goal a reality. That includes playing physical."
It all comes down to Game 4.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.