Nearly fifteen years ago, a group of ragtag sports-entertainers donned black and green and made their way across the country from arena to arena, entertaining fans and traumatizing administration everywhere. They called themselves D-Generation X, and they were the cornerstone of the then-WWF's Attitude Era.
They made countless trips to the TD Garden -- although then it was called the FleetCenter -- bringing their take-no-prisoners and take-no-garbage attitude. While the days of DX are long gone, the Attitude Era came back with a new life in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday night in the form of a Boston Bruins team that clobbered the life out of the Vancouver Canucks.
It started with a chair-shot, when Aaron Rome cleaned Nathan Horton clear out of his first career playoffs with a vicious head hit at the Vancouver blueline that left the Bruins' star forward unconscious, carted off the ice on a stretcher. That, it seemed, would be the last hit that Vancouver got in on a Bruins squad that finally started to push back.
And when they did, they pushed back hard.
With the team flat and the TD Garden crowd quieted in the wake of the Horton injury, Andrew Ference laid out Chris Higgins behind the Boston net -- and the ball started to roll. Shawn Thornton, playing in his first game since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, had a couple big hits, one coming as soon as he got on the ice in the first period.
Ference and Daniel Paille led the team in hits with six and five respectively, with Paille piling up most of his five on the penalty kill. Paille's hitting wasn't just symbolic. It was also useful from an offensive standpoint, as he helped to create a number of shorthanded chances, two of which the team converted on.
Boston's two short-handed goals marked the first time a team had scored two shorties in one Stanley Cup Finals game since the Minnesota North Stars did it in 1991.
"I think once one guys started hitting we fed off of it and continued to do that. So, it was nice to see us finish our checks," said Paille, who also added a short-handed goal in the third period, his third of the playoffs.
"That's our game and when we play like that we're a very solid team, so it was nice to see us come out like that."
Not to be outdone, the Bruins power play also contributed two goals, a tally early in the second period from Mark Recchi and an exclamation point wrister from Michael Ryder with just over 30 seconds remaining in the game. But it was how the Bruins kept the Canucks at bay that really stood out on this night.
It started with a more concerted effort on special teams, where the Bruins held the vaunted Vancouver attack to an 0-for, despite eight individual power play chances.
"The power play did a great job tonight, got a couple goals," said Brad Marchand, who scored the highlight-reeliest of all the highlight-reel goals on the night, a short-handed goal after he forced a neutral zone turnover, skated around the Vancouver defense and embarrassed Roberto Luongo before roofing the puck top-shelf.
"And the penalty kill was very good as well, kept them off the board. We wanted to bear down there and we just got a lot of lucky bounces there and things went our way. It seemed like the D were stepping up a lot and making a lot of big hits. I think that's a key thing when you're playing against guys that are skilled as them. You want to slow them down and that's the way to do it."
Just like they've preached after heartbreaking losses in Games 1 and 2, the Bruins stuck to their system. Because they took the body and stayed in their box on the penalty kill, Vancouver rarely had good looks in front of the net. When they did get in front of the net, Tim Thomas was there. Thomas stopped 40 Vancouver shots on the night, and the only goal he allowed was an afterthought with the Bruins leading 5-0 deep in the third period.
Thomas even got in on his teammates' fun, dumping Henrik Sedin on his keister when the Canucks forward tried to get in the crease. Thomas had faced a hard line of questioning about his style, which often finds him playing out of the crease, when the Bruins returned to Boston, but Monday night the defense did a good job keeping the Canucks' attack to the outside and allowing Thomas to stay home.
Thomas got credit for a hit on the play, which was the first career hit he'd recorded, and it was only fitting as the Bruins racked up 40 total hits on the night to Vancouver's 31. As the game wore on, those hits started to take their toll and the chippiness jumped to another level.
Late in the third period, Milan Lucic went after Alexandre Burrows, placing his outreached arm dangerously close to the infamous chompers of Burrows. At the same time up the ice, Ryan Kesler and Dennis Seidenberg went at it with the gloves off. Neither guy is really known for the fisticuffs, but it was that kind of game.
"I'm not really a fighter," Seidenberg admitted after the game. "I don't fight. I think my last fight was when [Ottawa Senators' enforcer Chris] Neil went after me, and that one was pretty lopsided, too. Maybe I need to learn how to fight."
Seidenberg may need to learn to fight, but on this night, he and his team had plenty of it in them.
The fighting spirit wasn't all good for Boston. The coaching staff, no doubt, frowned upon the actions of Lucic and Mark Recchi, both of whom strategically placed their fingers near the mouths of their opponents late in the game. Claude Julien said things like "emotions got the better of them" and "I don't want that stuff in the game" about those incidents.
But it's not something that the staff should try to fully curtail. After all, that emotion got the Bruins to a level that they hadn't yet played at in this series -- a level that they needed to get to and a level that many were concerned they couldn't find.
Boston's hockey team doesn't have an Attitude Era, but they do have a mantra. And, if only for one night, it put the reigning President's Trophy winners on notice: The Big Bad Bruins are back.
The Stanley Cup Finals are ongoing, as the Vancouver Canucks battle the Boston Bruins. Stick with this StoryStream for full coverage of Game 3. For coverage on the Finals, stick with our Stanley Cup Finals hub, our Canucks blog, Nucks Misconduct, and our Bruins blog, Stanley Cup of Chowder.