By Steve Keating
VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Until Raffi Torres scored to give the Vancouver Canucks a 1-0 win over the Boston Bruins in Game One of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday, he had missed as many games through suspension as he had playoff goals.
A hard-hitting, blue-collar player who is more used to doing the unglamorous dirty work along the boards and in front of net, stepped into the Stanley Cup spotlight in true Cinderella fashion.
With 19 seconds remaining and overtime looming, Torres slipped the only goal of the night past Boston netminder Tim Thomas, triggering a thunderous celebration in the city hoping the Canucks can lift a first Stanley Cup.
In his first game back, the 29-year-old Canadian nearly found himself banned again for a nasty hit on the Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook.
Coming into Game One of the Finals, he had two goals.
"Like I've said all along about Raffi, we brought him in because he was an emotional, physical player," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault told reporters.
"He's had nothing but a great attitude and a great work ethic with us all year long. He comes to play, prepares himself real well. We need him to play the way he does.
"He's a little bit sometimes outside the box but you got to let him be who he is."
What Torres is, is an agitator and ferocious fore-checker, who can also score. The type of guy players love to have on their team but the kind they hate to play against.
In nine season, Torres has 112 goals with stints at New York, Edmonton, Columbus, Buffalo and Vancouver.
Taken with the fifth overall pick in the 2000 NHL draft by the New York Islanders, Torres found himself looking for a team at end of last season, signing as free agent with the Canucks, who brought him in to fill a specific role.
"It was a long summer, obviously the phone wasn't ringing off the hook too much," recalled Torres, the only current member of the Canucks to have played in a Stanley Cup Finals.
"But everything happens for a reason. I've tried everything in my power to put it behind me. Had some great support along the way.
"Just in a very fortunate situation right now, for a chance to reach our ultimate goal, which is winning the Stanley Cup, it's been quite a ride."
(Editing by John O'Brien; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)