VANCOUVER — While the Bruins sprinted across the ice to mob him at the buzzer, Tim Thomas tapped both goalposts, sank to his knees and rubbed the ice in front of his empty goal.
Thomas drew a virtual line in his crease throughout the Stanley Cup final, and the goalie just wouldn't allow the Canucks to cross it.
After 38 seasons without a championship, the Bruins ripped the Cup — and several thousand hearts — out of a Canadian city that had waited four decades itself for one sip.
Thomas was just too good, and the Bruins are the NHL's best.
The Cup is headed back to the Hub of Hockey.
Thomas made 37 saves in the second shutout of the series on his way to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, and Patrice Bergeron and rookie Brad Marchand scored twice each as Boston beat Vancouver 4-0 in Game 7 on Wednesday for its first championship since 1972.
"It still hasn't kicked in, if I'm completely honest," Thomas said. "I can't believe it's over. We've had our battle meter up so high for so long, it feels like we're moving onto the next series or something."
The Bruins leaped over the boards and headed straight for Thomas at the final buzzer, mobbing the goalie who carried them through long stretches of this postseason. The Bruins are the first team to win a Game 7 three times in one postseason, with Thomas posting shutouts in the decisive game of the East final against the Lightning and the Stanley Cup final.
Captain Zdeno Chara nearly slipped when he skated away from commissioner Gary Bettman with the Stanley Cup. But the trophy eventually got a lift from Nathan Horton, the injured Boston forward whose Game 3 concussion sustained on a late hit swung the series' momentum to Boston.
Before Game 7, Horton worked to give the Bruins a home-ice advantage, pouring a bottle of Boston water onto the ice in front of the Bruins' bench 90 minutes before warmups.
"I was just trying to get some Garden ice here and make it our ice," Horton said.
But it was mostly Thomas, who limited the Canucks to eight goals in seven games in the final, blanking Vancouver in two of the last four. "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."
Thomas' first save Wednesday, a screened drive by Christopher Tanev, was his 762nd of the postseason, breaking the record set by Vancouver's Kirk McLean in 1994. Also, 1994 was the only other season an American has won the Conn Smythe, Brian Leetch leading the Rangers to a Game 7 win over the Canucks.
A 37-year-old who grew up poor in Flint, Mich. — Thomas' parents pawned their wedding rings to pay his way to goalie school — at one point he and his family sold fruit on the roadside to supplement their income.
After being an All-American at the University of Vermont — as a teammate of the Lightning's Marty St. Louis — Thomas played for years in the minor leagues (Birmingham, Ala., and Houston) and in Europe (Finland and Sweden) before earning a permanent job with the Bruins in 2005.
Now he is expected to win his second Vezina Trophy in three seasons as the league's top goalie after setting a modern record with a .938 save percentage in the regular season.
"Their goaltender was real tough to beat," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "The way they played in front of him was real tough to beat. We had some Grade A chances, and we were unable to score."
Boston dropped the first two games in Vancouver but became the third team since 1966 to overcome that deficit.
"We got the first goal, and we knew that would be important coming here," said 43-year-old Mark Recchi, who plans to retire after winning the Stanley Cup with his third franchise. "If they got any chances, Timmy was there, and it was just scary how good he was."
The Canucks, who had the league's best regular-season record and were the highest-scoring team in the regular season, still seek their first Cup since entering the league in 1970.
"Anybody in our situation right now would feel real disappointed, whether you're the favorite or not," Vigneault said. "We battled real hard. We gave it our best shot. This one game, they were the better team. It's that simple."
First Period—1, Boston, Bergeron 5 (Marchand), 14:37. Penalties—None.
Second Period—2, Boston, Marchand 10 (Seidenberg, Recchi), 12:13. 3, Boston, Bergeron 6 (Seidenberg, Campbell), 17:35 (sh). Penalties—Chara, Bos (interference), 16:07.
Third Period—4, Boston, Marchand 11, 17:16 (en). Penalties—Hansen, Van (interference), 5:33; Lucic, Bos (hooking), 11:34. Shots on Goal—Boston 5-8-8—21. Vancouver 8-13-16—37. Power-play opportunities—Boston 0 of 1; Vancouver 0 of 2. Goalies—Boston, Thomas 16-9-0 (37 shots-37 saves). Vancouver, Luongo 15-10-0 (20-17). A—18,860 (18,810).