Bruins Play to Their Strength at Even Strength With Win in Historic Penalty-Free Game 7

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Bruins Play to Their Strength at Even Strength With Win in Historic Penalty-Free Game 7 BOSTON — All season long, the Bruins were at their strongest at even strength.

They led the NHL with 177 goals while skating 5-on-5 in the regular season, and while their power play floundered throughout the playoffs, their scoring process at even strength allowed them to continue their deepest playoff march in two decades.

So it was only fitting that the decisive Game 7 to put the Bruins into the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1990 would be the first NHL playoff game in at least 20 years to be played without a single penalty called, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning played out a classic playoff clash for the ages skating every minute of the contest at even strength. And fittingly, the Bruins scored the only goal for a 1-0 victory to take their first conference title in 21 years.

"We were hoping to keep it 5-on-5," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. "We knew that we had a great team 5-on-5, we have been all year. We just wanted to keep battling all game and make it hard on them and we did."

Just having a game without the fiery Marchand being sent to the box was a feat in itself, let alone keeping every player involved out of the sin bin all night.

"Yeah, it's tough enough for me not to get one," Marchand said. "I don't think I've ever been in a game where there's been no penalties, but I think that was the best way to go. The refs did a great job of just letting us play and letting the best team win."

There was near universal praise for referees Dan O'Halloran and Stephen Walkom after the game, which was a far cry from the situation both before and after Game 6. Prior to that game, Tampa coach Guy Boucher expressed his "concern" over what he felt had been "lopsided" calls against his club by one of that night's referees, Eric Furlatt. After the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien was equally upset with several questionable calls after the Lightning prevailed 5-4 largely on the strength of three power-play goals.

On Friday, there were no such complaints about the officiating.
 
"I knew going in they weren't going that they weren't letting special teams be a factor," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. "I mean, they complained before Game 6 about the referees and we had some words about it before this game. I'm happy they let us play. I don't feel like it was a dirty game at all. Maybe there was one or two calls that they could have made, but it was great that they let us play and play to the finish. It's just fitting with how the series has gone that the game went the way that it did and it ended off the way that it did."

Even the Lightning had no issue with the empty penalty ledger on the scoresheet.

"The power play has been a strength of ours definitely," Boucher said. "You know you are hoping you get one, but come the third period I wasn't hoping for a power play. [It was] two teams who are very disciplined. I think we respected each other strengths and I think this was the type of game that, 0-0 penalties, you know what, I can't think of any moment I felt there should have been a power play on either side. That's a credit to both teams' discipline and attention to details."

It also taxed the players' memories to think of another game they've been involved with that didn't feature a penalty call.

Nathan Horton, who scored the game's only goal, couldn't come up with one, but wasn't complaining.

"No, it was nice," Horton said. "It's been a long time. We didn't take any bad penalties and they didn't take any bad penalties. It was an even game and the refs called a good game. It was even and we're going to have to do it 5-on-5."

Chris Kelly could recall another penalty-free contest, but had to go all the way back to his junior debut with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League in 1997.

"My first junior game, we went into Windsor and they were supposed to be this big rough and tough arena," Kelly said. "I was 16 at the time and pretty nervous. And there wasn't one penalty called. That's the only other time I can remember no penalties."

But Kelly was happy to add a second penalty-less game to his career highlights.

"I think the refs realized the situation and wanted the players to decide the game," Kelly said. "That's the way it should have been, especially a Game 7."

It was definitely the way the Bruins wanted it, considering their success at even strength this season and their struggles on special teams of late.

"A lot of times our power play is not working so we need to be good on 5-on-5," Horton said. "And obviously if we're going to have a chance [to beat Vancouver] we need to get better on the power play. We have a couple days to practice that but we got to continue to keep working hard and keep pressing 5 on 5 because that's where we want to play."

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