It was everything a playoff hockey game should be: back-and-forth action, close calls, crushing hits, no penalties, big saves and an even bigger goal by Nathan Horton.
To put it simply: Game 7 vs. Tampa Bay was the perfect playoff hockey game.
The Bruins and Lightning played chess on ice for over 50 minutes, as attacks were met by resistance and counterattacks were foiled by the pads, blockers and gloves of Tim Thomas and Dwayne Roloson.
Finally, 12:27 into the third: Andrew Ference hit David Krejci with an outlet pass after a faceoff win in the neutral zone. Krejci entered the zone and headed to the boards. Nathan Horton drove to the net. Krejci put the puck on his tape for a tap-in.
The fans at the Garden stood for the last seven or so minutes of the game, as Tampa desperately threw pucks at Thomas. But Thomas held the fort and the celebration began: the Bruins were going back to the Stanley Cup Final.
Since May 27, 2011, this game has frequently been discussed as one of the best hockey games many have ever seen, and certainly one of the best (if not the best) in the recent Bruins era. As the game wore on, it was clear that with the Bruins' focus on defense and Tampa's love for the 1-3-1 trap, it was probably going to be a "first goal wins" sort of game.
That tension made the entire game feel like sudden death, making the joy felt when Horton put the puck in the net even sweeter.
Other notable happenings in that game:
- Zero penalties were called. After watching this year's playoffs, where guys are getting minors for snowing the goalie, that seems like a faraway dream.
- Steven Stamkos took a Johnny Boychuk slapshot to the face and not only lived to tell the tale, but came back a few minutes later stitched up and wearing a shiny new cage. I'm not going to hop on the "hockey playerz r so much tuffer than every1 else!!11!!1!" train, but it was an impressive display by Stamkos.
- Dwayne Roloson was remarkable for the Lightning. Tim Thomas would say after the game that as time wore on, Thomas' fear wasn't that he'd allow a goal, but that Roloson wouldn't. It would prove to be Roloson's swan song, and was the first elimination game loss of his career (remember, he was injured in Game 1 of the Cup Final with Edmonton).
Bruins beat Tampa in Game 7, win the Eastern Conference 5/27/11 (via dafoomie)