Horton lifts Bruins into Cup Finals
Nathan Horton must be getting used to being the Game 7 hero.
In the first round, Horton delivered the knockout punch against Montreal. In Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night, Horton delivered the fatal blow in perhaps his finest moment as a Bruin when he scored the clincher and lifted Boston past Tampa Bay, 1-0, in front of 17,565 at the TD Garden.
The goal, coupled with a 24-save performance from Tim Thomas, helped send Boston to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1990. The Bruins will face the Vancouver Canucks in the Finals, which begin Wednesday in vancouver.
Horton has been the hot hand for the Bruins recently, posting 9-6-15 totals in nine of the past 12 games. It was no different Friday night, save for the fact that this goal means so much more than the previous eight tallies.
“Just to be a contributing player feels pretty good,” Horton said. “It’s definitely nice (to score the game-winner). Anything to help the team win.”
The goal came courtesy of a great play that started from the defensive zone, which is where much of the offense came from in a tight Game 7. David Krejci took the puck below the left faceoff circle and waited for Horton, who sped between two defenders and deflected the pass past a helpless Dwayne Roloson (37 saves).
“We came back and grabbed some speed,” Horton said. “(Andrew) Ference made a great pass to Krejci, and I saw him get a little bit of space, so I tried to go to the net and give him some space. He gave me an unbelievable pass.”
Because of an off-ice incident after Game 6 in Tampa, the pass might not have happened. Horton allegedly squirted a fan with a water bottle and then threw the bottle at that fan. No suspension came of it, and the Bruins are glad that was the case.
“It wasn’t even on my mind,” Horton said of the potential suspension. “It feels good to be out there and to get the game-winner.”
With 7:33 remaining in regulation, the Bruins still had to kill off nearly half a period, and they did a tremendous job of doing so. Boston continued to provide heavy pressure and keep Tampa Bay from having easy entry into the Bruins’ zone.
“Once they went up 1-0, they really came back with five guys and it was tough to get anything,” Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said. “They really came back tight and as a team.”
“I thought we stayed with it and (didn’t) get too excited,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “In the last seven minutes we kept at 'em and didn’t sit back.”
The Bruins also benefited from a penalty-free contest. Boston had been the best team in the league at even strength, and it showed Friday night as the Bruins shut down Tampa Bay’s best players. Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Lecavalier combined for just five shots on goal.
The Bruins will have to be just as disciplined against the Canucks when the teams meet Wednesday night in Game 1 in Vancouver. The Bruins will have plenty of time to both enjoy the Game 7 triumph and refocus on the task at hand.
But with a tough series standing between them and the Stanley Cup, no celebrations are planned just yet.
“Well, there’s no need to celebrate — we’ve got a bigger picture that we’re looking at,” Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. “The ultimate goal is right in front of us.”