VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Milan Lucic ended a perfect trip home by reliving one of his childhood dreams.
Lucic, who is from Vancouver and was honored by the local junior team the night before, scored the go-ahead goal on a rebound with 4:38 left and the Boston Bruins beat the league-leading Vancouver Canucks 3-1 on Saturday night.
Asked how many times he had imagined scoring a goal like that while growing up, Lucic said, "thousands and thousands and thousands."
"You remember playing hockey in your backyard and scoring big goals," said Lucic, who also set up Nathan Horton's tying goal midway through the second period. "To play a big game and get the game-winner in front of my friends and family and all the Bruins fans that came out, it's a great feeling.
His junior team, the Vancouver Giants, gave away a Lucic bobblehead doll, and put his old number in their Ring of Honor before a game Friday. At least 45 of his friends and family made the cross-town trip to see him play the Canucks, and Lucic treated them to a win by snapped in his team-leading 27th goal into after Roberto Luongo lost sight of the puck when a point shot deflected in front.
"It's almost the perfect ending to a perfect couple of days here, said Lucic, who the Memorial Cup Canadian junior hockey championship with the Giants in 2007.
Patrice Bergeron added an insurance marker into an empty net, and Tim Thomas made 26 saves for Boston, which has won the first four games of a six-game road trip. That kept the Bruins four points ahead of Montreal in the Northeast Division, but it may have been a costly win.
Defenseman Andrew Ference left with a lower body injury after taking a big hit in the first period. Coach Claude Julien didn't have an update on Ference, but was pleased by the way his team handled the final two periods with only five defenders, limiting the chances for the league's top scoring team, and holding their No. 1 ranked power play to just three shots on three chances.
When things did break down, Thomas was there with his usual acrobatics, including a stacked pads effort with 32 seconds left that ensured Lucic's goal stood up as the game-winner.
"It was really nice to see [Lucic] get that goal and I wanted to make that hold up as the game winner so bad," said Thomas, who needed some help from captain Zdeno Chara to sweep the puck off the goal line after the last save. "I'm very happy to see him get the game-winner in his hometown and hopefully that's a game he can look back on for a long time."
Manny Malhotra scored and Luongo finished with 22 saves as Vancouver continued to alternate wins and losses for a 10th straight game. The Canucks remained a point ahead of Philadelphia atop the NHL standings but saw their lead over Detroit in the Western Conference shrink to five points.
"We had some good chances. Their goalie made some big saves," coach Alain Vigneault said. "They made one more play than we did and won the game."
In a battle between the top two defensive teams in the NHL, Luongo and Thomas traded stellar right pad saves to keep it scoreless before Malhotra opened the scoring on a rebound with 3:02 left in the first period. It was Malhotra's third goal and seventh point in eight games after going pointless the prior 19.
It was also the Canucks' first goal ever against Thomas, who shut them out in two prior meetings and came in with the best save percentage and goals-against average in the NHL. His dominance continued early with a right pad save to take a point-blank chance away from NHL leading scorer Daniel Sedin.
"They're a very talented team, very dangerous and to come in and grind out a win on their ice is a big victory for us," Thomas said.
Horton, robbed on an empty net chance by the right pad of a sprawled Luongo early, tied it from in tight after a nice pass from Lucic behind the net.
Boston, which already added D Tomas Kaberle, C Chris Kelly and C Rich Peverley in trades over the last week, signed veteran D Shane Hnidy before the game. ... It was Boston's first visit to Vancouver since 2008 and just the third trip since 2002.