VANCOUVER - In recent years, it hasn't been uncommon for the NHL's showcase event, the Stanley Cup final, to wind up being an anticlimax to two months of meatgrinder hockey, the two combatants bloodied if not bowed and just trying to get over the finish line.
This isn't one of those years.
Vancouver Canucks forward Raffi Torres finished off a broken play with just 18.5 seconds left in the game to give the Canucks a 1-0 win and a 1-0 lead in a roaring, intense and fast start to the best-of-seven final. On a play that was close to off-side as time was running out, Torres broke in on a 2-on-1 and slipped the puck by Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas for the win.
It was a spectacular finish to a sometimes mean opener that saw bodies flying.
"That was the most fun game I've ever played in my life," said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin.
The Bruins and the Canucks carried on the momentum of this marvellous post-season with a game that had some bite to it.
The first controversy of the final came as Canucks winger Alex Burrows appeared to bite the right index finger of Boston forward Patrice Bergeron during a scrum as time expired at the end of the first period. Bergeron was pushing his gloved hand in Burrows' face when it looked like Burrows chomped down on the finger. Bergeron said Burrows bit him.
When asked if he had bitten Bergeron, Burrows replied: "I don't think so."
When asked if he thought he'd be suspended, he replied: "Next question."
Burrows could face some supplemental discipline. The Canucks also have concern when it comes to defenceman Dan Hamuis, who played in their top pair, after he left the game and did not return after suffering what looked to be a leg injury. He was hurt when he delivered a spectacular hip check on big Bruins forward Milan Lucic, which saw him go up and over and get tangled up with Hamuis. It was one of a number of big hits.
"When two teams don't know each other that well and they're facing each other with the build up to this final, there's going to be some strong emotions out there," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "Both teams obviously reacted to that."
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said Hamuis was day-to-day. Vigneault was left to play five defencemen for half the game, but with two days between Games 1 and 2, the Canucks will benefit from the extra rest.
The two goaltenders played up to their status as finalists for the Vezina Trophy with Thomas making the harder stops, including a trio of great saves early in the third period to keep the game scoreless. At the other end, Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, playing in the rink where he helped Canada win the gold medal at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, was less spectacular, but just as steady, making 36 saves in the win.
"I thought for the first two periods, we played a pretty even game. In the third we seemed to lack some energy and lost our legs," Julien said. "They just seemed to come at us pretty hard. They kind of took the game over in the third period ... it got away from us but we still got an opportunity here in the next game to hopefully get that one and kind of get the home ice advantage."
The Bruins were blanked on the power play again, going 0-for-6 and are now 5-for-67 in the playoffs.
Now we have to hope the series can feed off the energy and emotion of Game 1.
"Well, with what's at stake, said Vigneault, "I expect both teams to want it real bad. That's what we saw tonight."