It took 34 shots and nearly 60 minutes, but they found an opening in the brick wall.
Starved for a championship and thirsty for some light at the back of the net, the Canucks struck first in this best-of-seven series after Ryan Kesler stripped defenseman Johnny Boychuk near the blue line to start a tic-tac-toe play.
Kesler fired the puck across the ice to Jannik Hansen above the right circle, and Hansen squeezed a pass into the slot for Torres, who got behind a defender to beat Thomas into the left side of the net.
"It was just as exciting as an overtime goal," said Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, who made 36 saves for a shutout.
Thomas, who had been so good through 59 minutes and 41.5 seconds, almost got his right skate down in time to stop Torres' shot. Instead, his final line read 33 saves on 34 shots.
At the other end, Luongo shut the Bruins out. The Canuck netminder made 36 saves, including 17 in an active first period and 10 in the third to keep the door closed.
Until the goal, the story of Game 1 had been about missed chances: The teams combined to go 0-for-12 on the power play in the first two periods, having better luck finding each other after the whistle than finding the back of the net.
"At one point, I thought we would be playing all night here," said Luongo.
Game 2 is Saturday in Vancouver.
"Our confidence is pretty high right now," said Torres, "but we know, like Kes (Kesler) said, it's just one game. We have to carry that into Game 2."
Both teams are trying to snap championship droughts.
Vancouver, although it has a Stanley Park, had never won the Stanley Cup. The Canucks are playing in the Finals for the third time, and for the first time since 1994 when they were beaten by the New York Rangers in seven games.
The Bruins have won five Stanley Cups, but none since 1972. They are 0-5 in the Finals since then, the last loss coming to Edmonton in 1990.
Both teams had good chances to score in the third period, especially the Canucks, but they were kept out of the net by two Vezina finalists.
Thomas, in particular, sparkled in the period until the last shot he faced.
Hansen got behind three defenders and tried to beat Thomas through the legs, but he snapped them shut in time. Later, Thomas stoned Lapierre on a 2-on-1, stopping his one-timer from the slot after Hansen's pass from the left circle.
But Thomas also got lucky when Alexander Edler whipped a wrister past him, but the shot hit off the crossbar and deflected away.
"Obviously in the third we just seemed lax in some energy, lost our legs," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. "They just seemed to come at us pretty hard. They kind of took the game over in the third period."