- Scott Burnside, NHL
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BOSTON -- After searching in vain for a hero in the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals, the Boston Bruins suddenly discovered a roomful of them.
After losing top-six forward Nathan Horton to a vicious hit by Vancouver Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome early in the first period, Boston shocked Vancouver with four second-period goals and four more in the third en route to a lopsided 8-1 Game 3 victory.
The goals were supplied by pluggers and penalty killers and skilled players and defensemen and old men and the maligned and the under-performing, and they represented the best two periods of hockey the Bruins have played this spring.
Now the question that remains is whether the Bruins can count on the same heroic effort in Game 4 on Wednesday night. The answer will say much about the outcome of what has suddenly become a compelling series.
"So, we won by a big score tonight, but it's only a win, and we're still down 2-1 [in the series]," Boston coach Claude Julien said in the aftermath of the Bruins' first home Cup finals victory since 1978. "That's the way I've approached it. That's the way I've seen it. What's maybe encouraging is we had our issues with scoring on [Roberto] Luongo and tonight we managed to find a way to score a lot of goals on him. It's certainly good confidence-wise, but I don't think it's any reason for us to think that all of a sudden things have turned around."
If you accept that momentum knows nothing and does not know how to travel from game to game, you understand that reproducing Game 3's effort will be both imperative and wildly difficult for the Bruins.
But the good news: After having too many passengers as they broke down late in two one-goal losses in Vancouver, the Bruins now understand they can produce an "all hands on deck" kind of performance when they need it.
"We needed to win this game to start turning some momentum, to start to get us back in this series," Boston netminder Tim Thomas said. "We're still down 2-1 in this series. I wouldn't consider that right back in the series, but I wouldn't consider us out of the series now either.
"Next game is another important game. We need to approach it the same way that we did the game tonight, have the same effort from all 20 players. If we win next game, then I'd be comfortable saying we're right back in it."
The fact Boston's best players weren't at their best was certainly a factor in Games 1 and 2 (the Bruins managed a combined two goals), but there also wasn't enough from the top to the bottom of the lineup.
But Monday night was an inspired effort.
It might seem a bit mawkish to draw a line between the sight of Horton being carted off the ice on a stretcher 5 minutes, 7 seconds into the game and Boston's outpouring of goals. But Julien and a number of players insisted their fallen comrade did provide inspiration in a game they absolutely had to have.
"I think, you know, you always make mention about the guy that's gone to the hospital, that I'm sure being there [in the hospital], he'd like to see this team win this hockey game," Julien said. "It's always something to motivate yourself with."
Whatever connection there might have been between the hit on Horton and the frenzy of goals, it wasn't instantaneous. The Bruins stumbled quite badly after the injury, allowing a number of terrific scoring chances late in the first period. Were it not for the acrobatic derring-do of Thomas, this game and series might be completely different.
But they came out Monday and were rewarded with a goal 11 seconds into the second frame by Andrew Ference, whose point shot snuck through a handful of bodies in front of Luongo.
Instead of wilting as they did in Game 2 when they could not hold a 2-1 second-period lead, the Bruins continued to forecheck the Canucks and crowd the front of the Vancouver net on Monday night.
In the first two games, the Bruins were credited with 31 hits in each game. Through two periods Monday night, they had 33. When 43-year-old Mark Recchi scored on the power play at 4:22 of the second, it represented the first two-goal lead by either team in the series and tilted the ice in Boston's favor.
Recchi would add another goal in the third period and his performance was noteworthy given he had suggested that fans who questioned whether he should be playing on the power play, or in the lineup, could kiss his, er, backside.
"It is what it is," Recchi said after the win. "Like I said before, I care about what my teammates and coaching staff are thinking. People that have any question marks about it don't know what it takes to win."
The veteran winger was just one of many that put aside lingering questions or disappointments in Game 3.
Brad Marchand, who candidly described for reporters Monday morning how much pressure there was on the Bruins in this series, scored a spectacular shorthanded goal, going around Ryan Kesler to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead.
David Krejci, timid to start this series and having to play without regular winger Horton, rounded out the scoring in the second period with a nice shot off a rebound.
Chris Kelly, terrific in the first two games, was rewarded with a goal.
Daniel Paille, a key part of a strong Bruins penalty-killing unit all spring, added a second shorthanded goal.
"We started scoring and the floodgates opened and we just kept going and trying to score more," said Thomas, who turned aside 40 of 41 shots he faced in Game 3. "It reminded me of the Montreal series where everybody was putting in goals here. That's what we're going to need the rest of the way out for us to win the Stanley Cup. We're going to need contributions from everyone."
He's right, of course.
The need to generate offense from up and down the lineup is crucial in a series where the Bruins are at a distinct disadvantage in the talent pool. That's just the reality.
But what is also true, and what was revealed in dramatic fashion in Game 3, is the heroes don't necessarily need to be big for the Bruins to get back in this series, just numerous.
Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.
The Bruins won by committee in Monday's Game 3, but can they repeat that effort again in the Stanley Cup finals?