The epic Game 7 that featured no penalties for the first time in a playoff contest in at least two decades -- and for 52 minutes no goals -- was determined by Horton's finish on a cross-ice pass from David Krejci in the closing minutes of the third period. The Bruins' 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning put the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final against the Vancouver Canucks. It's Boston first Finals appearance in 21 years.
The Bruins haven't won the title since 1972, hardly the 86-year drought the Red Sox sloughed away with their 2004 championship. Still, Friday night's hero admits he's heard some mentions of the title-less streak that is older than every player in the Bruins locker room except Mark Recchi.
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"It's hockey country here," Horton said. "Everybody wants us so to win. We're trying. We're trying to do it for ourselves and do it for the fans. You feel the pressure all year."
The Bruins were the better team from the start as they sent 15 shots at goalie Dwayne Roloson in the first period -- the first scoreless period of the series. He stopped shots that came from just about every part of the ice, including a breakaway when he got his right pad on to turn away Milan Lucic. Roloson faced 38 shots in total as the Lightning were outshot for the first time in the series.
"That was a big game for us tonight," said Roloson, who lost an elimination game for the first time after he won the first seven of his career. "The guys came out and battled and did a lot of stuff. We came out with one less goal than we needed."
Lightning forward Steven Stamkos didn't leave much out there either, other than some blood on the ice in the second period when he took a slap shot from Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk to the face. Stamkos hopped back up, skated to the dressing room and missed only about five minutes of action before returning with a patch on his nose and a full face cage.
"Nothing was going to keep me in the dressing room to stay out of this game," said Stamkos, whose nose was still bleeding while he chatted with reporters after the game.
The Lightning may not have had as many chances on Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, but he was there when he needed to be as he finished with 24 saves and his second shutout of the series.
"We dominated the play tonight, for the most part," said Thomas, a goalie who didn't even start a game in the Bruins net last postseason and was the topic of trade rumors just a few months back. "They still got some chances. They work hard and they do good things to get good chances, but we didn't give them anything tonight. Everything they had, they had to earn. The only reason it was a 1-0 game was Dwayne Roloson."
The Bolts' postseason, which was extended after a 5-4 victory in Game 6, was their first in four years. Under a new head coach (Guy Boucher) and a general manager (Steve Yzerman), the Lightning entered the contest minus Sean Bergenheim for the second consecutive game. He was their leading scorer of the playoffs earlier in the series before he went down with an undisclosed injury. The Lightning also did not have defenseman Pavel Kubina, who, along with Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, was on the 2004 championship team.
"I thought we left it out there, no doubt about that," St. Louis said. "We knew it was going to be a tight game and obviously it is a 1-1 game. A bounce here and a bounce there, and you never know. It wasn't meant to be, but we can look at ourselves in the mirror and be proud of what we have done this year. We came from one game from being in a Stanley Cup Final."
Now, the Bruins are within striking distance of ending a drought that has endured nearly as long as the Canucks' existence. (This is Vancouver's 40th season in the league and none of those first 39 seasons ended with the Cup either.) Not that anybody in the Bruins' locker room was really counting.
"As happy as everybody is, our goal is the Cup," said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference. "This is something you can enjoy tonight, but the focus is fully there. There are some hungry guys in the room for that thing. I know there are some people watching tonight. There are some fans that waited a long time. We know that."