Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Horton strikes again in a Game 7

Categories: BOS vs. TAM, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning

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Boston's Nathan Horton, right, has both game-winners in Boston's two Game 7s of the playoffs. (Elise Amendola/Associated Press) Boston's Nathan Horton, right, has both game-winners in Boston's two Game 7s of the playoffs. (Elise Amendola/Associated Press)
At 12:27 of the third period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final, Nathan Horton delivered the Bruins to the Stanley Cup final with the night's only goal.

The play started with Andrew Ference staring down Tampa's 1-3-1 system. Instead of giving the puck to partner Johnny Boychuk for an eventual dump-in, Ference hit David Krejci with a seam pass instead. As Krejci pushed the puck over the offensive blue-line and peeled off to the left, Horton drove to the net, blowing past Steven Stamkos and Mattias Ohlund.

When Krejci delivered a pass to the crease, Horton was there to tap the puck in for his eighth goal of the playoffs.

"I just tried to drive the net and I just went with my stick on the ice," Horton said. "[Krejci's] such a good player and a good passer and such a smart hockey player. He just passed it to me, and it just hit my stick and went in."

It is the second time Horton has scored a series-clinching goal. In Game 7 in the first round against Montreal, Horton scored in overtime to send the Bruins into the second round for a rematch against Philadelphia.

"It does feel good. It definitely feels good to get the game-winner," said Horton, who had never appeared in a playoff game before this season. "But it feels better to know that we're going to the Stanley Cup final. And it's all about team here and it's a pretty amazing feeling. In the end it doesn't really matter who scores the goals but it does matter if you're moving on. And we are, so that's all that matters."

There was some question whether Horton would be available for Game 7. A video shot from the crowd at St. Pete Times Forum showed Horton squirting a fan with a water bottle. Horton then threw the bottle into the crowd.

Horton said he didn't give the threat of discipline any thought. Horton never heard from the league, so he assumed he was good to go for Game 7.

Then in the first period, Horton was banged up after a collision with Blair Jones along the boards. Horton skated slowly to the bench, then went to the dressing room for treatment and didn't return for the rest of the first.

Horton landed a game-high six shots in 14:43 of ice time.

"He certainly has played like a big-game player," coach Claude Julien said. "Overtime goals, game-winning goals. I think for a guy who hasn't played in the playoffs for many years, he's certainly kept a lot of energy inside of him and a lot of excitement to go out there and play the way he did. I thought it was fitting, not just for him, but for our team."

Proud ending for reborn franchise

The Lightning were one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 2004. Goalie Dwayne Roloson stopped 37 of 38 shots in his best game of the series, and the Lightning blocked 17 shots.

But they couldn't do enough to solve Boston netminder Tim Thomas and the Boston defence.

However, the rejuvenated Lightning made it farther than they expected. Owner Jeff Vinik, GM Steve Yzerman, and coach Guy Boucher appear to have assembled a foundation that won't require much work for repeated visits to the playoffs.

"I think there is hope for all levels in the organization," Boucher said. "I think that's what is impressive. From the inside, I see what's going on. Starting from Mr. Vinik and Mr. Yzerman, Mr. [Tod] Leiweke, Julien Brisebois, and everybody that it trickles down to. Their attitude, their work ethic, and everything they put into it. It's trickled down to the players and the staff and myself and we always want more."

Stamkos injured, returns

At 4:59 of the second period, Boychuk hammered a slap shot that deflected off a Lightning player's stick and catapulted into Steven Stamkos's face. Stamkos wears a shield, which absorbed some of the impact, but the puck still caught him in the nose.

Stamkos returned later in the period with a full cage. He played 18:57, landing one shot.

"I've broken my nose before," Stamkos said. "It was just a weird play. The guy cut in front of me right before, and I didn't see the puck coming. It just hit me square on. Nothing going to keep anyone in this dressing room from staying out of this game, that's for sure."

Game 7 goes penalty-free

Referees Dan O'Halloran and Stephen Walkom didn't see anything resembling a penalty in Game 7, so they pocketed their whistles for the entire 60 minutes. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first penalty-free game in the last 20 years. Penalty information has not been tracked long enough to determine when the last penalty-free playoff game took place.

"We didn't mind that at all," Julien said. "What I liked about the refereeing tonight was they let the two teams decide the outcome. I think both teams were very disciplined tonight."