Friday, May 27, 2011

Boston Bruins win East, face Vancouver Canucks for Stanley Cup

Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals was not pond hockey, as had been played a few times by the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins in previous clashes. It was gritty, tough, "Hey ref, let the guys play" hockey whose resilience was as clear as the blood on Steven Stamkos's(notes) face.

The kind of hockey where one mistake changes everything, as it did in the Bruins' 1-0 win over the Lightning. The Bruins advance to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Vancouver Canucks. It's Boston's first battle for the Cup since losing in 1990.

The Bruins are seeking their sixth Stanley Cup and first since 1972.

That mistake came in the form of a Lightning defensive breakdown at 12:27 of the third period, asDavid Krejci(notes) sent the puck to Nathan Horton(notes), who finally solved Tampa goalie Dwayne Roloson(notes):

It's been quite a journey for Horton in his first playoffs, coming to Boston last summer in a trade from theFlorida Panthers.

He scored a double-OT game winner against the Montreal Canadiens in the quarterfinals, scored the OT game winner in Game 7 against the Habs, and had a three-point game in Game 2 against the Lightning.And while it went unmentioned by the NHL's TV rights-holders on Friday night, he had a water bottle incident with a fan in Tampa Bay after Game 6 that, under different circumstances, could have cost him a suspension. But not with a trip to the Cup Finals on the line; in fact, Horton became the first player in NHL history to have two Game 7 game-winners in the same playoffs.

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