BOSTON -- This hockey-mad city had waited 21 years for the Stanley Cup Final to once against make a call here.
The wait was worth it Monday night as a delirious sold-out crowd at TD Garden watched a playoff game that will go down as one of the most memorable for this Original Six franchise. When it was over, the Bruins had authored an 8-1 victory that puts the home side right back in this best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final, trailing the series 2-1 with a pivotal Game 4 looming in less than 48 hours.
"There have been tests throughout the year and in the playoffs for this team to focus and show up," said defenseman Andrew Ference, who scored the second-period goal that opened the floodgates for the Bruins. "It wasn't a perfect game. There are still turnovers and mistakes and bad penalties -- we had some of those things, but I think there was a little more focus and a little more grit.
"This team has done that in the past when it was tested and I think we did it again tonight. It wasn't pretty -- it was Boston hockey."
It was Boston hockey like the home fans have rarely seen this season and even less in the 21 years since a Stanley Cup Final game was played in this city. Boston lost in five games to Edmonton, dropping all three games at home, and there wasn't much to celebrate.
This time, though, the celebration never stopped.
The party took a while to get going, mind you, and was marred slightly by the sight of Nathan Horton, the hero of the Eastern Conference Finals, being stretchered off the ice after a late hit from Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome in the game's sixth minute. Rome was assessed a five-minute interference major and a game misconduct -- and Horton was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital for further observation.
Boston pressed to score on the major penalty, but came up empty after taking six shots. The Bruins didn't have a shot the rest of the period and, suddenly, there were worries that the offensive deficiencies that doomed them to two last-shot losses in Vancouver had followed Boston across the continent.
"Obviously guys were a little nervous about Horty, but we realized we still had a game to play and we really wanted to get win tonight and we got refocused," said forward Brad Marchand, who scored a shorthanded goal to make it 3-0 that really put Vancouver on the ropes. "We really did it for him.
"It is so tough when you see a guy go down like that. You are so worried about him. We're all so close in this room and we care about Horty a lot. It played on our mind in the rest of the first period, but we were able to use it to our advantage after that."
After regrouping during the first intermission, Boston scored four second-period goals and added four more in the third period -- all against Roberto Luongo, who allowed eight or more goals for just the third time in his career and the first since April of last year.
Jannik Hansen scored Vancouver's lone goal with 6:07 left in regulation to end goalie Tim Thomas' dreams of a shutout. Thomas finished with 40 saves.
Hansen's goal made it 5-1, but the Bruins added three late goals in the span of 110 seconds to make Game 3 the most lopsided in Stanley Cup Final history since Colorado beat Florida by the same score in Game 2 of the 1996 Final, 15 years ago to the day.
"I don't know, I think they got a couple of lucky breaks in the second (period)," said Luongo, who had allowed just two goals total in the first two games. "All of a sudden, it was like the wheels fell off a bit and everything was going their way. You know, obviously, it's one of those games where we are all disappointed with the result. But, at the end of the day, a loss is a loss."
It may have been just another loss for the Canucks, but it was a special win for the Bruins, who now have a chance to even this series at two wins each with a victory on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; Versus, CBC, RDS).
Boston's struggling power play got two goals -- one by Mark Recchi and another by Michael Ryder. Its penalty kill also got a pair of goals -- a highlight-reel effort by Marchand and a workman-like one by Daniel Paille -- while holding Vancouver without a power-play goal for the second time in three games. Ference, David Krejci, Recchi and Chris Kelly added even-strength goals as Boston scored its most goals in a playoff game since beating Buffalo 9-0 on April 20, 1983.
"We treated it almost like a Game 7 to get ourselves back into the series," forward Milan Lucic said. "I think we have to go about it like that in the next game, too. It doesn't matter that we won 8-1. In the end, you win by seven or you win by one, a win's a win. You can't let it get too high, you've got to get refocused.
Emotions certainly got high in the third period. Not only were five goals scored, but referees Stephen Walkom and Dan O'Rourke handed out 20 penalties, totaling 118 minutes. For the game, the teams combined for 145 penalty minutes, the most in a Final game in the past 21 years.
Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler were handed 10-minute misconducts in the third for Vancouver. Dennis Seidenberg, Lucic and Shawn Thornton earned misconducts for Boston. Ference had two misconducts in the third in what has been a chippy series throughout.
"Obviously it is a little personal because we are fighting for something we've wanted our whole lives and no one wants the other guy to take that away from them," Marchand said. "It is definitely a little bit personal, but it is how a playoff series goes, a Final series goes and we are just going to go with it."