April 28, 2011

Horton, B's reward oft-punished fans with thrilling Game 7 win

by Jesse Connolly

The Bruins celebrate Nathan Horton's game-winning goal in overtime of Game 7. (Getty)

BOSTON -- Following the Bruins 4-3 overtime victory at TD Garden, his first win in a decisive seventh game as coach of the Black and Gold, Claude Julien knew both he and his team owed it to the faithful fans throughout the Hub of Hockey.

After going 0-for-3 in winner-take-all tilts, Boston mercifully put an end to their string of Game 7 woes when Nathan Horton beat Carey Price with 5:43 gone in overtime.

"I think it felt pretty good because if you look back, my first year here we took Montreal to seven games and lost that seventh game in Montreal," Julien said. "And we know the last couple of years it’s been Carolina and Philadelphia and to be able to win a seventh game, again, it was just one of those things where you feel happy.

"And more so, it happened in our building. Our fans were excited, elated to see that goal go in. For us as a group it was nice to reward our fans with that because they’ve been punished enough." 

After giving up a tying tally to P.K. Subban with less than two minutes to go in regulation, it would've come as no surprise to see the Bruins come out and play tentatively to start the extra session in the most pressure-packed of situations in sports.

But Boston matched Montreal chance-for-chance in overtime until Horton was set up high in the offensive zone for the winning tally.

"I don’t remember too much," a euphoric Horton said after the game. "I remember Looch coming up with the puck and I just tried to get open, and I tried putting the puck towards the net. Luckily it got deflected off someone and it went straight in. That’s all I remember. It was pretty special, again, it doesn’t get any better."

Horton recognized the resilience he and his teammates showed after coming oh-so-close to closing out the Habs in regulation.

"When you have the lead it feels good, but when you give it up, it’s tough," he said. "Especially in Game 7, late in the third, and we battled. We battled all year, when times have been tough, and we’ve come together and it seems like we get stronger and we just start pressing, and that’s the way it’s been all year."

The former Panther wasn't around for Boston's recent playoff misery, but he certainly knows how elated they are to put their shortcomings in seventh games behind them.

"Well this is huge," said Horton. "And definitely with what happened last year, we can put that in the past now. It’s a new year. We’ve gone through it. Anything can happen in the playoffs. You’re up three-nothing, or down two-nothing, and things can turn. You’ve just got to work through it, and be prepared to always continue to work until you get that fourth win, because like everyone says, it’s the hardest one to get."

After waiting his entire career to have this opportunity, missing the playoffs each and every season he spent in Florida, Horton is understandably in awe of what's transpired over the past few weeks, not only for himself but the team as a whole.

"You know, just getting to the playoffs, that’s what I was thinking about," Horton said when asked of his initial goals after being traded to Boston. "It’s, again, this is like a dream come true and for us to win in Game 7 is pretty special. But we still have a long way to go, a lot of work ahead of us."

With Horton and his flare for dramatic, game-winning goals on their side, the Bruins seem poised to repay their oft-tortured fans with a few more gratifying victories.