BOSTON - Nathan Horton scored with 7 minutes, 33 seconds left in Game 7, sending the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in more than two decades with a 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals on Friday night.
The right winger on Boston's top line cleanly beat goalie Dwayne Roloson by deflecting a pass across the slot from David Krejci. That set off a loud celebration among Bruins fans, who have waited a long time for a trip to the Finals.
Tim Thomas made 24 saves in his third career playoff shutout and second this season.
Boston will open the Stanley Cup Finals in Vancouver against the Western Conference champion Canucks on Wednesday.
Both goalies were outstanding behind teammates playing energetic, impressive defense in a hard-hitting game without a single penalty.
With three seconds left and the puck in the Lightning zone, Bruins center Patrice Bergeron raised his stick while standing in the "B" symbolizing the Bruins at center ice.
And when the game ended, Thomas raised both arms and arched his back against the net that the Lightning never reached in the decisive game as yellow and black towels given to fans fluttered to the ice.
"I think a lot of people thought I was over the hill," said the 37-year-old Thomas, a Vezina Trophy finalist who was sidelined throughout last year's playoffs.
"I knew it wasn't true. I put in a lot of work over the summer and I've had an unbelievable year. I've been blessed."
"I don't think he could have stopped that puck and I don't think he could have done better than he did tonight," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said of Roloson and his play on Horton's goal.
"It's hard to look at. One little defensive mistake."
"They have guys that can put the puck in the net and defend," Boucher said of the Bruins. "Obviously, they've got it all."
Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos was struck in the face by a puck early in the second period and briefly left the game.
He missed about five minutes of game time, then returned with a full cage face shield in place of the visor he had been wearing.
Boston's Milan Lucic had the best scoring opportunity in the first when Krejci fed him for a breakaway. But Lucic shot it right into Roloson with just under five minutes left.
"I wasn't concerned about my team," Thomas said. "I was concerned about Roloson playing so well."