The Boston Bruins finally broke through in the third period of a scoreless Game 7, and it was Nathan Horton who did it. The Bruins advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1990, and defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 at TD Garden to win the Prince of Wales Trophy.
It was a largely Boston dominated first period shotwise, though Tampa Bay made it very much an end-to-end game during long stretches. Boston out-shot Tampa 15-9 in the opening frame. Dwayne Roloson was superb, making a save on the period's only break-away, on Milan Lucic. Tim Thomas was also solid. All in all, though both teams got chances, with the exception of the Lucic break-away, most of them were very much stoppable chances. And the one great scoring chance got stopped.
The period was also notable for their being no penalties the entire way through. Eric Brewer led the Lightning in ice time in the first period with 7:46 on the ice, while Zdeno Chara of the Bruins led all skaters with a notable 8:55 spent on the rink during the first period.
The highlight of the second period was likely Steven Stamkos taking a shot to the nose from Johnny Boychuk. A lot of the shot got Stamkos' visor, causing some to hypothesize that Stamkos may have been in much worse shape had he not been wearing one. The young Lightning star missed exactly one shift, and returned to the bench, with both a cage and one of the more exquisite scars we've seen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Yet another reminder that hockey players are tougher than almost any other human beings in sports.
The shots and offensive play in the period were once again dominated by Boston. The Bruins out-shot the Lightning by a count of 14-8 in the middle frame, and are now leading the statistic 29-17 through two periods. The biggest save of the period came from Dwayne Roloson once again, as he stoned Mark Recchi point blank on a fantastic chance, and then got him again from an equally opportunistic angle. There were no penalties for the second straight period. The Prince of Wales Trophy hangs in the balance in period three.
Finally, a breakdown in Tampa's defensive system, which had been so vaunted this entire playoffs, led to a Boston goal. David Krejci and Nathan Horton found a seam in the defense and got a quick two-on-one. Krejci slid it across the ice for Horton, who simply tapped it in behind Roloson to make it 1-0 at 12:27 of the third period. The guy they acquired from Florida in the off-season to bring more offensive punch scored one of the biggest goals in modern Bruins franchise history. The Lightning could barely get Roloson off the ice, and a poor offensive effort in Game 7 was punctuated by not even getting a shot on Thomas late.
So, though the Tampa Bay Lightning were valiant in their performance, with so many gutsy players - Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Sean Bergenheim, Eric Brewer - eventually fell to just a lack of offense and lack of time to get anything going. The Bruins advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1990, which will begin on Wednesday night in Vancouver. What a series.