Nathan Horton Delivers Another Signature Game 7 Moment to Lift Bruins into Cup Final

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BOSTON — For more than 16 years, the Bruins had gone without a victory in a Game 7.

That was 16 years without Nathan Horton in a Bruins uniform.

In one season with the big winger, the Bruins are now 2-0 in Game 7s and headed to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1990 after Horton scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay to decide the Eastern Conference Final Friday night at the Garden.

"Before this year I've lost every Game 7, I guess our lucky charm has been Nathan Horton," linemate Milan Lucic said. "He was our missing piece. That's all we needed to get through a Game 7."

Horton's first signature Game 7 moment came in the opening round, when he dispatched archrival Montreal in overtime. That was a sweet victory considering the opposition, but Friday's game-winner meant so much more as it punched Boston's ticket back to the Cup Final for the first time in over two decades.

"It's awesome," Horton said. "What a feeling. It's nice, there are 28 other teams that would like to be in our position. And it's an unbelievable feeling and we?re going to the Stanley Cup Finals. It's pretty nice."

There was plenty of praise for Horton in the Bruins' locker room after the emotional victory, and even a little gratitude for not waiting quite so long to score it this time around.

"As long as we have Horty, I think we're all set," forward Brad Marchand said. "I did not want to go into overtime. Anything can happen in overtime, so it's great that Horty finished it off in regulation."

Horton, however, was quick to share the credit with his teammates.

"It definitely feels good to get the game-winner but I mean it feels better to know that we're going to the Stanley Cup [Final]," Horton said. "It's all about team here and it's a pretty amazing feeling. In the end it doesn't really matter who scores the goals but it does matter if you're moving on. And we are, so that's all that matters." Nathan Horton Delivers Another Signature Game 7 Moment to Lift Bruins into Cup Final

Horton's goal finally snapped a scoreless tie at 12:27 of the third period, as the Bruins broke Tampa's dreaded 1-3-1 trap with speed through the neutral zone. Andrew Ference got the transition game going with a pass up to David Krejci, who sped down the left side as Horton drove to the net, where he tapped in a perfect feed at the top of the crease.

"I didn't have to do much," Horton said. "I mean Krech [Krejci] gave me an unbelievable pass and I was real excited for sure. It took a long time to get a goal and we wanted to get that first goal. It was zero-zero going through the whole game. But in the end it felt pretty good."

Horton had waited his entire career for a shot to play in an NHL playoff game, as the Panthers' 2003 first-round pick never reached the postseason while in Florida. But an offseason trade last June changed the course of his career, and the fortunes of his new franchise.

"Everything and more," Horton said when asked if his first postseason has lived up to his dreams so far. "I mean it's pretty special. This is a great position to be in for a hockey player and it's definitely, it keeps getting harder and harder to describe in words but so far it's been amazing and I'm sure it's just going to keep getting better."

Horton's dream night was almost derailed in the first period when he had to go to the locker room with an injury, but he said there was never a doubt that he would return.

"Yeah just a little bump, I mean nothing big," Horton said. "I came back and I felt pretty good. So we got a couple days off here and we?ll get back at it then."

That was good news for the Bruins, who once again needed their newest star to come through in the biggest moment of all.

"He certainly has played like a big-game player, obviously," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Overtime goals, game-winning goals. I think for a guy who hasn't played in the playoffs for many years, he's certainly kept a lot of energy inside of him and a lot of excitement to go out there and play the way he did. I thought it was fitting, not just for him, but for our team."

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