Bruins get back in

The Boston Bruins got their swagger back in time to save their season.

Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo (1) reacts after a Boston Bruins goal in the third period during Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals

Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo (1) reacts after a Boston Bruins goal in the third period during Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals

Boston 8 Vancouver 1

BOSTON — The Boston Bruins got their swagger back in time to save their season.

Tim Thomas defiantly defended his team after two close one-goal losses to open the Stanley Cup final and backed it up with 40 saves Monday as the Bruins handed the Vancouver Canucks a humbling 8-1 loss in Game 3.

It was the most complete effort of the series for a Bruins team that was clearly energized by a return to the rocking TD Garden.

A four-goal outburst in the second period was made possible by the solid play of Thomas and helped Boston narrow the gap in the series to 2-1.

“We started scoring and the floodgates opened, and we just kept going and trying to score more,” Thomas said.

“I think that was the right approach and … it was good to see the scoring spread around here.

“That’s what we’re going to need the rest of the way out to win the Stanley Cup, we’re going to need contributions from everyone.”

Game 4 goes Wednesday night before the final shifts back to Vancouver for Game 5 on Friday.

“We won by a big score tonight, but it’s only a win and we’re still down 2-1, and that’s the way I approach it,” Boston coach Claude Julien said.

“What’s encouraging is that we had our issues scoring on Luongo, and tonight managed to find a way to score a lot of goals on him so it’s certainly good confidence-wise.”

The Bruins victory was even more impressive because it came without Nathan Horton, the team’s second-leading playoff scorer who was knocked out of the game at 5:07 of the first period by a devastating late hit from Canucks defenceman Aaron Rome.

Horton laid motionless on the ice for several minutes before being carted off on a stretcher and taken to hospital.

“There wasn’t a lot of talk (in the locker-room), it was more of ‘Let’s make sure we do this for Horty,”’ Mark Recchi said of the Bruins’ reaction to the hit.

“Horty’s been a great teammate all year, and let’s get this win for him tonight.”

Rome was given a five-minute major for interference and could find himself facing a suspension after Mike Murphy reviews the play.

“We’ll let the league deal with that, but hit was a head-on hit, a player looking at his pass, it was a little bit late. I don’t think that’s the type of hit the league is trying to take out,” Canucks coach Alain Vignaeult said when asked about the possibility of Rome being suspended.

Recchi scored twice, Michael Ryder had a goal and two assists while Andrew Ference, Marchand, David Krejci, Dan Paille and Chris Kelly also scored for Boston.

Jannik Hansen replied for Vancouver.

It was a tough night for Canucks starter Roberto Luongo, who was beaten four times on 14 shots in the middle period after allowing just two goals in the opening two games.

Boston’s first two goals were the result of fortunate breaks. Canucks defenceman Alex Edler had his stick inexplicably shatter right after the opening faceoff in the second period and he was standing helplessly in front when Ference’s shot through traffic floated past Luongo at 11 seconds.

Recchi made it 2-0 with his second power-pay goal of the series at 4:22 when an attempted pass deflected off Ryan Kesler’s stick and through Luongo’s legs.

The Bruins had all kinds of life at that point and Thomas ensured they kept the momentum, stopping a tough tip from Raffi Torres and denying Manny Malhotra on a partial breakaway.

Marchand soon followed with one of the nicest goals of the entire playoffs. The little sparkplug took control of a neutral zone turnover, chipped the puck past Edler and fought off Kesler before outwaiting Luongo to score short-handed at 11:30.

A huge rebound by Luongo off a long shot ensured the final period would be played without suspense. The puck came right out to Krejci, who roofed a shot to make it 4-0 at 15:47.

“Obviously they took the momentum in the second, and they kept it,” Vigneault said.

The first Stanley Cup final game played in Boston since 1990 was arguably the biggest the team had faced since last winning a championship in 1972. The Bruins knew falling behind 3-0 in the series would virtually ensure a quick end to their title aspirations.

Fans inside TD Garden waved yellow towels with the word “Believe” printed across them and welcomed the Bruins home with an ear-splitting ovation that lasted throughout the pre-game introductions, national anthem and opening faceoff. A number of fans from Vancouver made the 5,000-kilometre trip to Boston — including The Green Men, who sat about 15 rows behind the visiting goal — while a full house watched on the scoreboard back at Rogers Arena.

Shawn Thornton was inserted in Boston’s lineup in place of rookie Tyler Seguin and made his presence felt with an early hit on Alex Burrows, the Canucks agitator who is considered Public Enemy No. 1 here after biting Patrice Bergeron’s finger in Game 1.

The Bruins were intent on upping their physicality but Vancouver didn’t back down. The teams went toe-to-toe with one another and the Canucks ended up having the most dangerous scoring chances in the first period after weathering an early storm that included killing off Rome’s five-minute major for the hit on Horton.

Mason Raymond made a lovely move to beat Dennis Seidenberg but had two glorious opportunities stopped by Thomas, who looked poised and confident all night long.

The biggest ovation of the night came in the third period when Thomas charged out of his net and knocked over Henrik Sedin. The goaltender was even credited with a hit on the play.

Referees Stephen Walkom and Dan O’Rourke tried to keep the bad blood from boiling over by handing out multiple misconducts in the third period, but had minimal success. Milan Lucic waved his finger in the face of Burrows after one late scrum — Bruins coach Claude Julien said earlier in the day he wouldn’t look kindly on such behaviour from his players — before Paille put an exclamation mark on the victory with a goal Luongo should have stopped at 11:38.

Hansen ended Thomas’s shutout bid at 13:53 before Recchi and Kelly added two more late ones as Vancouver suffered its worst loss since Chicago beat them 5-0 in Game 5 of the opening round.

The Canucks remain two wins away from the first Stanley Cup win in franchise history, but the complexion of the series has changed.