Hub capped; Horton's goal sends B's into Cup Finals.
BOSTON - "Believe" read one sign held aloft at ice level.
"We Want It Bad," "Win it for Savvy" and "Killer B's" were other emotional and inspirational messages conveyed on homemade cardboard signs, a means of communication still relevant in this age of smartphones, Facebook and Twitter when it comes to sporting events.
The Black and Gold fandom, 17,565 towel-waving strong and still unshakably faithful despite a Cup drought that dates to 1972, lent its full support last night as the Bruins hosted the decisive Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden.
"It was so loud, it was like having an extra man on the ice," Nathan Horton said.
It took a while, but the Hub of Hockey heroes didn't disappoint.
Horton broke a scoreless tie with 7:33 left to play, redirecting a centering pass from David Krejci past goalie Dwayne Roloson to finish off a perfect, zone-busting breakout and lift the Bruins to a 1-0 victory and a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1990.
"It feels great to get the game-winner, it really does," Horton said after scoring his eighth goal this spring, three of which have won games.
"We threw a lot of pucks at him. That was our game plan. We only got one goal, and that's all we needed."
Now the Bruins, who saw their seasons end in 2008, '09 and '10 with Game 7 defeats - two of them on home ice - take aim at winning their first Stanley Cup since 1972.
The Cup Finals get under way Wednesday with Western Conference champion Vancouver hosting the first two games. The series will shift to Boston for games on June 6 and 8.
The Canucks, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary, are seeking their first Stanley Cup in their third trip to the finals.
"We're going to enjoy tonight and tomorrow, but it's only 12 wins," said Milan Lucic, a native of Vancouver. "You need 16 for the holy grail."
Tim Thomas, as he has for each of the Bruins' 18 games this postseason, started in goal. The Michigan native, who now calls New England home, ran his record to 12-6 as he made 24 saves while recording his second shutout this spring.
Although Thomas was tested on a handful of shots, the Bruins controlled the play throughout while taking away the Bolts' time and space.
"A team like that is going to get their chances," said defenseman Andrew Ference, who assisted on Horton's goal. "They're going to make plays out of nothing. But the key is to limit their chances and make them earn everything.
"I think we did a much better job of that than in the last few games."
Roloson came in 7-0 all-time in NHL elimination games. Former Islanders great Chico Resch is the only other player to win his first seven do-or-die games.
Roloson was zoned in while turning aside 37 shots, including 29 through the first two periods.
But despite being deadlocked the Bruins didn't get frustrated with their failure to put one past the 41-year-old Roloson.
"I just think we really felt good with what we were doing," Mark Recchi said. "We had a good 40 minutes, and we felt in control of the game. And we felt if we continued to play that way for another 20 minutes, we'd be fine."
With the clock ticking away, the Bruins finally broke through when Ference broke the Bolts' vaunted 1-3-1 neutral-zone trap with a lead pass to Krejci in the left circle. Krejci smoothly found Horton out front, the playoff neophyte tipping the puck home as the Garden exploded.
"It was a perfect breakout, just like we practice," said Krejci, whose 17 points ties him with Horton for the team lead.
There was one flaw in the plan. Seems Thomas dreamed the night before the game Krejci would score two goals last night. He only ended up with an assist.
As for Horton, the dream continues.
He endured six playoff-less seasons in Florida before being traded here in the offseason for, among other unwanted assets, Dennis Wideman. Now Horton is four wins from the Stanley Cup.
"It's been everything and more," he said of the playoff run that has the Bruins and their loyal followers believing this is the year.
NAME: BOSTON BRUINS
PHOTOG: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CUTLINE: Boston's Tim Thomas celebrates after the Bruins defeated Tampa Bay to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||May 28, 2011|
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