The Boston Bruins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 in a cliffhanger Game Seven on Friday to advance to the NHL's Stanley Cup final against the Vancouver Canucks.
Nathan Horton scored the game's only goal late in the third period while Tim Thomas sparkled in the Boston net as the Bruins won a nail-biting game to claim the Eastern Conference Championship and return to the Stanley Cup final for the first time in 21 years.
It marked the second time in three series the Bruins had been pushed to a seventh and deciding game and had appeared headed to overtime until Horton redirected a perfect feed from David Krejci past Tampa netminder Dwayne Roloson.
I just drove to net and Krej (Krejci) gave me a beautiful pass right onto my stick and I just had to put it in, said Horton, who has eight post-season goals, including two overtime winners.
It feels great to know we're going to the Stanley Cup finals but we still have a way to go.
Horton's goal would be all the offense the Bruins would need as the clocked ticked down triggering a joyous celebration.
As the capacity crowd cheered, the Bruins circled the Prince of Wales trophy that goes to the East champs and posed for pictures but gave into hockey superstition and refused to touch the silverware believing it brings bad luck with one more best-of-seven series to be played for the biggest prize of all -- the Stanley Cup.
Vancouver had already booked their place in the final by beating San Jose 4-2 in the WesternConference championship. The best-of-seven finals series starts in Vancouver Wednesday.
I think this was probably one of our better games that we've played as far as there's no big mistakes that I saw, said Bruins coach Claude Julien. We had energy. We had confidence.
I thought it was a hard-fought series. Tampa Bay certainly deserves a lot of credit.
Their goaltender was extremely good for them and kept them in the game.
Thomas, a Vezina trophy finalist as the league's top netminder, made 24 saves to earn his third career post-season shutout and come out on top of riveting goaltending duel.
But Roloson was no less spectacular in the Tampa net facing 38 shots.
It was devastating defeat for the Lightning who had rallied around assistant coach Wayne Fleming after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor early in the playoffs.
It's difficult because you know what your players put on the ice is every little ounce of energy is left that they have, so there's a lot of respect that comes at the end of this, said Tampa coach Guy Boucher.
It's difficult because we were playing these playoffs for Wayne Fleming.
We know he's going through a hard battle right now and we knew that every win that we got put a smile on his face. That was really important to us.
It's too bad we couldn't put a smile on his face tonight.