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Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas dives into his net as Vancouver Canucks' Manny Malhotra, right, looks on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/POOL/Bruce Bennett
Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas dives into his net as Vancouver Canucks' Manny Malhotra, right, looks on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/POOL/Bruce Bennett

ERIC DUHATSCHEK

Devastated Bruins left to pick up the pieces Add to ...

There is losing. Losing happens to every team eventually in the NHL playoffs.

Then there is losing this way, the hard way, the way the Boston Bruins lost the first two games of the 2011 Stanley Cup final against the Vancouver Canucks. In a devastating way. In a soul-sapping way. In a psychologically-difficult-to- recover-from way.

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Opening night: In the final 19 seconds of play, on a goal by Raffi Torres, in what finished as the first 1-0 game in 27 years of finals play.

On Saturday night: On a goal by agitating, annoying villainous Alex Burrows, 11 seconds into overtime, missing by only two seconds the record for fastest overtime goal, set by the Montreal Canadiens' Brian Skrudland in the 1986 Stanley Cup final against the Calgary Flames. The Flames, incidentally, never recovered from the Skrudland goal nine seconds into the game and meekly lost the series in five games.

This then will be Boston's challenge: To remember how close they were for vast stretches of the first two games on the road and bring those memories to bear when the series resumes in their town Monday night.

Zdeno Chara, the team captain, didn't have his best game. Andrew Ference, one of their most experienced playoff performers, didn't have his best game. Goalie Tim Thomas was sharp for 60 minutes but in overtime, was swimming outside the crease and far out of position when the Canucks' Alex Burrows scored on a wrap-around to send the capacity crowd at Rogers Arena home happy.

A quick aside on Burrows: He'd promised his father a big game so that everyone would forget his infamous moment on Wednesday night, in which he took four minor penalties and didn't help the overall cause. But Burrows scores big goals for the Canucks this season and he had two of them Saturday - to open and close the scoring. Hero time, they call it, and Burrows was that guy again on Saturday, moving Vancouver to within two victories of the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

About the best thing the Bruins have going for them here is that they have been down this road before. In the opening round against Montreal, they dropped two - at home no less - but came back and won the series in seven. They also defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven. So you'd intuit from that that there's no quit in the team and that they will everybody mobilized for Game 3, which is make or break at this stage of the season.

"We've been able to bounce back all playoffs," said Thomas, "though we haven't had this type of a hole since the first series, let's be realistic. But every time you do it, you have to put in the work to turn it around. It doesn't just happen."

More good news: For the next week or so, it'll be a game every other night. Hockey players, creatures of routine, crave that, and Thomas spoke of it as a key.

"You like to get into a rhythm," said Bruins' coach Claude Julien. "After tonight, it's every second day. We're looking forward to it."

He's not the only one. There was a time, in the 1990s, when Stanley Cup finals rivaled the Super Bowl for one-sided uninspired results, and featured a series of sweeps in. No more. Lately, they all seem good. They all want to go down to the wire. If that is to happen, Boston needs to put this setback behind them in a hurry and bring it all Monday night.

The question was put to Canucks' captain Henrik Sedin in the aftermath of Saturday's win: Do the circumstances of wins and losses under these dramatic conditions matter? And will it play on Boston's collective minds to be this close and yet be down 2-0?

"Well, I hope so," said Sedin, to laughs all around. "I'm not sure how they feel down there. If I would have been in that position, that's tough - knowing you could have been up 2-0. Now you're down 2-0. I think they'll try to stay positive. As long as they don't lose at home, they're going to be in again, so ...

"I'm sure they'll try to stay positive."

Trying, of course, is one thing. Doing is something else again.

 

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