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By GREG BEACHAM   AP Sports Writer

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) _ The Boston Bruins had waited
39 long years for another drink from the Stanley Cup, and Tim
Thomas was awfully thirsty.

When the Bruins and their brilliant goalie barged into a hostile
Canadian rink surrounded by another 100,000 screaming fans outside
for Game 7, they emerged with the championship they wanted.
Thomas made 37 saves in the second shutout of his landmark
finals performance, Patrice Bergeron and rookie Brad Marchand
scored two goals apiece, and the Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks
4-0 Wednesday night for their first championship since 1972.

“I think I went even further than I thought,” Thomas said. “I
never envisioned three Game 7s in one playoff series and still
being able to come out on top.”

Bergeron scored the eventual game-winner in the first period and
added a short-handed score in the second to keep the Cup away from
the Canucks, who have never won it in nearly 41 years of existence.

Star goalie Roberto Luongo again failed to match Thomas’
brilliance, giving up 18 goals in the last five games of the
finals.

Mark Messier and the New York Rangers won Game 7 in Vancouver’s
last finals appearance in 1994. This time, Thomas silenced the
NHL’s highest-scoring team, erased nearly four decades of Bruins
playoff blunders and crushed an entire Canadian city desperate to
take the Stanley Cup to Stanley Park.

Thomas limited the Canucks to eight goals in seven spectacular
games in the finals, blanking Vancouver in two of the last four.
Boston dropped the first two games in Vancouver but became just the
third team since 1966 to overcome that deficit.

“All the physical work we’d done throughout the whole series
added up,” Thomas said. “Being the last series, we didn’t save
anything, and we used that physicality again and that was the
difference.”

Bergeron added a Stanley Cup ring to his gold medals from the
Olympics and the world championships with his biggest game of a
quiet series. He scored his first goal of the finals late in the
first period on a shot Luongo saw too late, and Marchand added his
10th goal of the postseason in the second before Bergeron’s
short-handed goal, which inexplicably slid under Luongo.

The Bruins are the first team in NHL history to win a Game 7
three times in the same postseason, and they drew another dose of
inspiration from forward Nathan Horton, whose concussion in Game 3
irrevocably changed the series’ momentum.

Horton attended Game 7, and he apparently poured a bottle of
Boston water onto the ice in front of the Bruins’ bench 90 minutes
before warmups. He joined his teammates in the raucous postgame
celebration, putting on his skates and taking a celebratory turn
with the Stanley Cup held high above his head.

Horton was lost for the series with a concussion on a big hit
from Vancouver’s Aaron Rome. The Bruins rallied for four wins in
five games after Horton’s injury.

During a two-week Stanley Cup finals that ranks among the NHL’s
weirdest in recent years, the only predictable aspect had been the
home teams’ dominance. Vancouver eked out three one-goal victories
at home, while the Bruins won three blowouts in Boston.

The loss capped a spectacular collapse by Luongo, the enigmatic
goalie who backstopped Canada to Olympic gold medals on this same
ice sheet a year ago. Luongo was pulled from the Canucks’ last two
games in Boston after giving up 15 goals on the road, and he was
fatally shaky in Game 7.

Luongo praised his own positional game earlier in the series,
but he didn’t recover in time to stop Marchand’s second-period
goal. Five minutes later, he inexplicably failed to close his legs
on a slowly sliding puck on Bergeron’s goal _ the seventh allowed
by Luongo on the last 21 shots he faced dating back to Game 4.

Luongo wasn’t alone in deserving Vancouver’s blame: The Sedin
twins are the NHL’s last two scoring champions, but they capped a
disastrous finals by being on the ice for ALL of Boston’s goals.

Captain Henrik Sedin, last season’s MVP, scored just one goal in
the series, while Daniel Sedin had two goals and two assists,
scoring in just two of the seven games.

Boston overcame more than the Vancouver crowd and the NHL’s
highest-scoring team to win this Cup. Starting in the first round,
when the Bruins rallied past Montreal after losing the series’
first two games at home, this team has showed a resilience and
tenacity that hasn’t been seen much in the self-professed Hub of
Hockey in four decades.

The Bruins failed in their five previous trips to the finals
since Bobby Orr led them to championships in 1970 and 1972, losing
every time. Remarkable players such as Cam Neely came and went
without a Cup, while Ray Bourque had to go to Colorado to get his
only ring 10 years ago.

Boston declined to schedule a viewing party for the game at TD
Garden, worried about logistics and crowd control. Instead, the
party will rage in bars and neighborhoods _ but it’ll pale in
comparison to the party that the Bruins ruined in Vancouver.

More than 100,000 Canucks fans packed downtown during Game 5,
and even more were expected for the clincher. The picturesque city
was dotted with blue jerseys from the early morning, with fans
arriving by the hundreds on every train into downtown from the
suburbs.

Both teams opened Game 7 at a fantastic pace, forechecking and
hitting with boundless energy in both clubs’ 107th game of the
season.

After both teams’ top lines missed decent early scoring chances,
Bergeron put the Bruins ahead with a one-timer in the slot on a
sharp pass from Brad Marchand, the rookie who has emerged
remarkably in the finals. Luongo couldn’t be blamed for his
teammates’ soft checking when Bergeron’s shot caught the goalpost
and ricocheted home.

Bergeron, who won a gold medal with Canada on this same rink
last year, hadn’t scored a goal in Boston’s last nine playoff
games, including the entire finals.

Marchand hit Luongo’s crossbar early in the second period, and
he scored from behind the net several minutes later with ample help
from the diving Luongo, who knocked the puck into the net after
getting pushed by his scrambling teammate, Daniel Sedin.

Rogers Arena deflated with that score, and the Canucks’ suddenly
problematic power play allowed Bergeron essentially to finish them
off. He got a loose puck at his blue line and outskated two Canucks
toward Luongo, and the puck skittered underneath the goalie while
Bergeron went to the ice.

Thomas was unflappable in the third period, and Marchand added
an empty-net goal with 2:44 to play.

NOTES: Boston’s Zdeno Chara became the second European
born-and-trained captain to raise the Stanley Cup, joining
Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom. … Bruins D Dennis Seidenberg had two
assists. He is the second German to earn a spot on the Stanley Cup,
joining Uwe Krupp. … The NBA finals ended before the Stanley Cup
finals for the first time since 2002, when the Los Angeles Lakers
beat the Detroit Red Wings to their respective titles.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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