Boston Bruins Do It For Nathan Horton, Force Game 7 Against Vancouver Canucks

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 13: Shawn Thornton #22 of the Boston Bruins fights with Kevin Bieksa #3 of the Vancouver Canucks during Game Six of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 13, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

In a must-win Game 6 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, the Boston Bruins sent a message to the Vancouver Canucks in a 5-2 win to force Game 7. And it was clear what inspired such a performance: injured star Nathan Horton.

If these Boston Bruins had any statements left to make in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, they made them on Monday night, starting hot and putting away the Vancouver Canucks early, winning 5-2.

But while the style might have been alarming and the attack too much for Vancouver - and especially Roberto Luongo, who was pulled 10 minutes into the game - to handle, there was more to the game than just goals and shots and hits and faceoffs.

There were goals, of course. And, at least for Boston, they came early and they came often; Brad Marchand's poke-check turned partial breakaway turned wicked wrister that gave the Bruins an early lead; and there was Milan Lucic squibbling a puck through Luongo's legs just 35 seconds later to give Boston a 2-0 advantage.

And there were hits, too - namely Alex Edler's high hit on Rich Peverley that put the Bruins on the power play, where Andrew Ference slapped one past Luongo, chasing the Canucks netminder who gave way to Corey Schneider, who promptly watched Michael Ryder deflect a Tomas Kaberle shot into the net behind him.

Complete Coverage of the Bruins' Game 6 Win Over the Canucks

The four goals, scored in a 4:14 span, were the fastest four goals the Stanley Cup Final has ever seen. But they were merely bookends.

Just a week earlier in the same building, on the same ice, Nathan Horton was upended by a blindside hit from Vancouver's Aaron Rome. Horton was taken off the ice on a stretcher. He was diagnosed with a severe concussion and ruled out for the remainder of the series by team medical personnel.

Rome, too, was ruled out for the remainder of the series, as NHL disciplinarian Mike Murphy suspended him for four games for the hit.

Horton, it was assumed by a team and fan base that had seen star players (see: Savard, Marc; Bergeron, Patrice) lose entire seasons, wouldn't be seen or heard from again.

So their shock was understood when Horton was back in the Bruins' locker room following Game 4 to hand off the team's famed Starter jacket to Peverley.

It was a sliver of hope for a team that rallied around the injury and routed Vancouver in two straight games that maybe their star winger wouldn't be incapacitated, would be able to enjoy his summer and come back to training camp healthy.


If that instance was a sliver, then Horton's appearance after practice prior to Game 6 was a healthy serving. It didn't compare to his next appearance that night.

At the first media timeout of the game, with Boston already leading 2-0, clips of Horton's game-winners in Game 7 of both the Montreal and Tampa series were shown on the video screen, followed by other highlights of his postseason play.

The next step was a logical one. Horton, decked out in all black, waving two gold Bruins towels, was shown. Anybody who didn't know wouldn't have had a clue he was hurt; his trademark ear-to-ear grin was as evident as ever, and as 17,565 rose to their feet and raised their voices to commend him, he mouthed only two words before tears started to well in his eyes: "Thank you."

They were, for anyone who doesn't know, the two most common words Horton uses when dealing with teammates, coaches, members of the media, anyone. And, to be sure, Horton's weren't the only pair of eyes that saw things get a little dusty.

It's safe to say that, having seen the worst of concussions reduce Savard to a withered heap and Bergeron to a silent shadow, neither the fans nor the team expected that Horton would be around nary a week after his injury.

And yet, there he was.

It was an uplifting moment for the fans. It was an uplifting moment for members of the media - for whom applause is verboten - who stood and clapped at the sight.

But it was an equally uplifting moment for his teammates.

Two more goals followed quickly; Ference's at 8:35, and Ryder's 70 seconds later. After that, it was academic: the Bruins went into their shell, Tim Thomas stopped the shots he needed to and the team got one more timely goal, from Horton's center, David Krejci, on the 5-on-3 in the middle of the third period.

It was, as statement games go, trivial; the teams have to head back to Vancouver, where the Canucks have been solid and the Bruins have appeared sedated, being outscored 5-2 over three games, shut out twice and cleanly beaten each time out - that's a far cry from their 17-3 margin of victory in the three home games they've had this series.

But they'll do it with a little extra this time, knowing that their once-fallen teammate is well on the road to recovery, not a shadow of himself, but an exact replica.

"(Horton) will be in our hearts and souls when we go to Vancouver," said Brad Marchand after the game. "He obviously wants to be there, but we've gotta go up there and battle for him."

It's a common sentiment, one that both Krejci and defenseman Johnny Boychuk share, as the Bruins head into their first Stanley Cup Final game seven in franchise history. Of course, Boychuk knows it's a little bit bigger than that, too.

"I think it's win it for him, but also win it for us and win it for Boston."

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