Bure, who had scored his first goal of the series 63 seconds into the game, was ejected at 18:21 of the first period for high-sticking New York Ranger defenseman Jay Wells above the left eye and breaking his nose as they fought for the puck along the boards. Later, as the Canucks sifted through the ruins of their 5-1 loss and assessed their 2-1 series deficit, they lamented what might have been if Bure had kept his stick and temper under control.
"Pavel felt as good as he has all series. We had some good opportunities and it looked like we had some legs," said Bure's center, Trevor Linden. "It's a tough thing, just because of the mixing and matching of lines and obviously, he's a great player and he's leading the league in playoff (goal) scoring."
Bure said he thought at worst that referee Andy van Hellemond should have given him two two-minute minor penalties instead of a five-minute major and a game misconduct. He said he was trying to use his body on Wells, as the Canucks had been instructed to do against the Ranger defense, but missed Wells with his shoulder and instead got him with the stick.
"I think my stick just slid and hit him in the face," said Bure, who was fined $500 during Vancouver's quarterfinal series against Dallas for a vicious elbow against Shane Churla. "Lots of guys told me I should get two and two, but I got kicked out of the game. It was too bad, because I felt very well."
Vancouver Coach Pat Quinn, who doubted the severity of Wells' injuries, contended two minors would have been punishment enough. However, Bryan Lewis, the NHL's director of officiating, said van Hellemond believed Bure wasn't attempting to play the puck and that the injury was caused by carelessness, not by accident. According to NHL rules, that dictated giving Bure a major penalty and a game misconduct. Van Hellemond could have called a match penalty if he thought Bure had tried to injure Wells.
"He called it right," said NHL Senior Vice President Brian Burke, who reviewed the play and will not suspend Bure. "He cut him right in the face. Guys have got to be responsible for their sticks."
The Rangers, naturally, were delighted to see him go.
"It certainly took a player out of their lineup that we had to be aware of every time he's on the ice," said defenseman Brian Leetch. "Defensively, we still had to watch out for their men, but he's a game-breaker, and to have him off really helped."
Leetch assumed the role of game-breaker, scoring twice and giving the Canucks much to think about before Game 4 on Tuesday.
His first goal, a shot from the left point, bounced off the arm of Vancouver goalie Kirk McLean at 13:39 of the first period, tying the score at 1-1 and silencing the roaring crowd at the Pacific Coliseum. His second goal, a slicing back-hander off a rebound at 18:32 of the second period, sent the Rangers into the second intermission with a commanding 3-1 lead.
"He was my hero tonight, as I told him on the ice," said right wing Glenn Anderson, who had given the Rangers a 2-1 lead by deflecting a shot by Sergei Nemchinov through McLean's legs at 19:19 of the second period. "Brian Leetch is a phenomenal hockey player."
Said Leetch: "I think we played a really good road game. Once we were able to get the lead, you don't want to take too many chances."
Quinn said he was most disturbed that his players "weren't hungry enough" to get open for passes. They played into the Rangers' hands, he said, by handling the puck too much and making plays individually rather than as a team.
The Rangers' final goal, by Alexei Kovalev, was the first power-play goal of the series. New York is one for 15 and Vancouver is 0 for 17. . . . Ranger defenseman Sergei Zubov (bruised chest) was a late scratch and was replaced by Jay Wells. He is possible for Tuesday.