In a Game 7 that many felt would be decided by special teams play, there were zero penalties. It was the first penalty-free playoff game since 1990.
Coincidentally, that was also the last time the Boston Bruins reached the Stanley Cup Finals. With their 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning Friday night, the Bruins will get to play once again for the greatest trophy in sports.
The Bruins peppered Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson with 38 shots. Roloson, at a sage 41 years of age, was 7-0 in elimination games coming into this one. He made several key saves, including stopping Milan Lucic on a breakaway and stopping Michael Ryder on a third period 2-on-1.
Roloson's relatively younger counterpart Tim Thomas stopped all 24 saves he faced in the Boston net. There were some nervous moments, especially on tipped shots that seemed to barely miss the net, but Thomas was locked in.
With eight minutes left in the third period, it looked like the game would inevitably go into overtime scoreless. Then, David Krejci broke into the Tampa zone and fed a pass to Nathan Horton at the front of the net. Horton tapped it in with 7:33 to give the Bruins the lead and set the TD Garden crowd on fire. The Bruins are now 8-0 in the playoffs when Horton scores a goal. He also had the game-winner in Game 7 in the first round against Montreal, with that one coming in overtime.
Tampa's potent offense was stifled all night, and the last seven minutes were no different. Tampa never really looked threatening, and failed to get any pressure on Boston in the last minute. Roloson was only pulled with about 30 seconds left because the Lightning couldn't sustain pressure in the Boston end.
Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg played 26:44 and 27:57 minutes, respectively. They were key in shutting down the Lightning's top offensive players. Chara was on the ice virtually every second Vincent Lecavalier was.
There was a scary moment about midway through the second when Lightning star Steven Stamkos took a deflected shot from the point off the face. Stamkos was clearly bleeding profusely and hurried off the ice. Luckily, the puck seemed to hit the visor on his helmet, saving him from anything worse than a probable broken nose and a lifetime of bad photos. Because he's a hockey player, Stamkos came out later in the period with a full cage over his face and with some serious work done on his nose. You have to give him credit for playing through that.
After the game was over, the Bruins were presented with the Prince of Wales Trophy for winning the Eastern Conference. As is customary, captain Zdeno Chara did not pay much attention to the trophy. It is tradition for teams to ignore conference championship trophies, to show that they want the Stanley Cup and nothing less. Chara did, however, bring the entire team in for a big photo.
The Bruins will fly out to Vancouver to face a Canucks team that finished with 117 points in the regular season. The Canucks will be their biggest test. Vancouver will certainly be favored. But the Bruins cannot be counted out.