Less than four minutes into their first game between the teams since the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup in 39 years, at least five Canucks surrounded and jostled Boston's Shawn Thornton near the Vancouver bench after he came to the aid of a teammate who had been hit.
And two minutes later, the Canucks scored the first of their four power-play goals on their way to a 4-3 win Saturday.
"I think it makes a statement to the rest of the league that we're back and we're looking forward to getting back to where we were," Vancouver goalie Corey Schneider said.
The Canucks are second in the NHL with 55 points and the Bruins are third with 53.
Boston's Milan Lucic drew a game misconduct for leaving the bench to join in the altercation, but it was rescinded by the NHL later in the day.
Bruins coach Claude Julien insisted Lucic had taken the ice on a legal line change.
"I'm not blaming (the referees). They're in the middle of a scrum there," Julien said. "What's unfortunate is that we lost a pretty good player early in the game."
The league said in a statement "a video review of the incident revealed that Lucic did not leave the bench to join or start an altercation but rather had entered the ice legally over the boards and was about to step back onto the bench through the door when he changed course and joined a scrum."
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault, whose team was outmuscled in the Stanley Cup finals, thought the Bruins were still too physical.
"Our guys played whistle to whistle," he said. "It's hard to play that way when the other team gets two or three extra (hits) in after the whistle."
That may be a spillover from last year's ill will.
Boston's Nathan Horton missed the last four games of the finals after suffering a concussion in Game 3 on an open-ice hit by Aaron Rome. The Bruins were the much more physical team, pushing stars Henrik and Daniel Sedin around with little response.
"Let's not kid ourselves here. These are teams that don't like each other," Julien said. "I think the buildup from last year is still there."
Last year, Boston fans chanted "Luongo, Luongo" about Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, who struggled much of the seven-game series and was pulled in the first period of Boston's 5-2 win in Game 6.
They did it again just 1:55 into Saturday's game even though Schneider played the entire game.
The Canucks, who have the NHL's best power play, had the manpower advantage after the scrum that resulted in nine penalties, and Ryan Kesler gave them a 1-0 lead at 5:41 of the period with his 11th goal of the season.
Brad Marchand and Rich Peverley responded for Boston. Alexander Burrows tied it at 15:21 of the second period and Henrik Sedin put the Canucks ahead to stay at 19:47 after Marchand was given a game misconduct and a clipping penalty for upending Sami Salo with a low hit.
"It (also) happened last year in the playoffs," Henrik Sedin said.
Vancouver's Cody Hodgson and Boston's David Krejci scored in the first two minutes of the third period.
"We knew they were going to come out hard and so did we," Boston's Chris Kelly said. "There's grown men out playing hockey and emotions were high."
The Canucks did their scoring against Tim Thomas, their nemesis in the Cup finals when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player. He later won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender.
"Every time we started to get momentum we have a power play or a long power play to kill," he said. "Whether you agree with the calls or not, they were a huge factor in the way the game turned out."
Boston began the day leading the NHL in goals scored and goals against. Vancouver was the second-highest scoring team and third stingiest.
Boston, which won its previous two home games 8-0 and 9-0, fell behind when Kesler scored during a two-man advantage. Kelly blocked a shot in front of Thomas, but Kesler got the rebound and connected on a wrist shot from the bottom of the left faceoff circle.
Marchand scored his 16th goal a little more than nine minutes later when he cut in front of Schneider and connected on a pass from Patrice Bergeron along the boards.
Daniel Paille missed a penalty shot for the Bruins at 23 seconds of the second period, but Peverley gave them their only lead at 7:12 with his seventh goal on a wrist shot. Burrows tied it when he tipped in Hodgson's shot.
Then came Marchand's costly penalty.
"This isn't boxing," Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa said. "They're one of the biggest, strongest teams in the league, but it comes down to skill."
Exactly one minute after Marchand's ejection, Henrik Sedin, who began the game tied for the NHL scoring lead, scored his 11th goal when he tipped in Alexander Edler's shot. Sedin, who rarely shows emotion, pumped his fist.
"It was a big goal to go up 3-2 in the second period. There was a lot emotion out there," he said. "We won the game. That's good enough for us."
Notes: The Canucks are 20-0 when leading after two periods. ... Boston is 9-2 in its past 11 games. ... Schneider started for the second time in 11 games. ... Thomas lost for the third time in his past 17 games. ... The Canucks took the first seven shots on goal.Suggest a correction