Games That Defined a Stanley Cup Champion: Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Joe GillCorrespondent IIAugust 28, 2011

Nathan Horton came up big during crunch time yet again.
Nathan Horton came up big during crunch time yet again.

There are certain moments in time that define a team. There are games that truly illustrate the genetic makeup of a champion. In this series, one game will be analyzed from each series of the Boston Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup Championship run. Each contest showcased the Bruins’ resolve and resiliency. This edition of the Boston Bruins was much different than their predecessors.

They learned how to overcome…..

 May 27, 2011:

 The Bruins found themselves in another seven game dogfight during the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. After dispatching the Philadelphia Flyers with relative ease, Boston had their hands full with the No. 5 seed Tampa Bay Lightning.  Tampa had already defeated higher seeds in the Pittsburgh Penguins (in seven games) and Washington Capitals (in a four game sweep).

Both teams split the first four contests, winning one at home and one on enemy ice. The Bruins broke the series gridlock in Game Five with a hard fought 3-1 victory at the TD Garden. The Lightning bounced back with a 5-4 win on home ice at the St. Pete Times Forum. Both teams finished with identical 46-25-11 records, so it was no surprise that a ticket to the Stanley Cup Final would be decided in a seventh game.

 Game Seven was no longer taboo for the Boston Bruins. They finally got the monkey off their back versus Montreal after home ice disappointments against the Canadiens in ’08, Hurricanes in ’09 and the Flyers in ’10. The Black and Gold had a new found sense of confidence, but all bets were off in a deciding seventh game.

 The Bruins dominated the game from the puck drop. However, they could not beat Tampa and UMass-Lowell alum, Dwayne Roloson. Roloson saved his best performance for last. He had been chased in Game Four in Tampa after surrendering three goals on just nine shots. After being spelled by Mike Smith for one plus games, Roloson was then re-inserted into the starting lineup for Game Six, winning yet another elimination game between the pipes. His “rest” paid major dividends.

Roloson was playing “Tim Thomas Like,” denying scoring attempt after scoring attempt. The Bruins peppered him with 29 shots in the first two periods of the game. Tampa responded with 17 shots of their own, but very few were high quality scoring chances. The Bruins defense was suffocating the talented Lightning forwards. The referees also put away the whistles and let the “boys” play.

As the game entered the final frame, Boston Bruins players and fans must have had some doubt cross their minds. They were outplaying Tampa considerably but the Lightning veteran netminder continued to stymie them. Would the other shoe finally drop on the Bruins and their Stanley Cup aspirations?

 Well not if Nathan Horton had anything to say about it. He was not privy to all the prior playoff heartache. The winger, acquired from Florida before the start of the season, had made the most of his first post-season with OT game winners in Games Five and Seven versus Montreal. Nathan Horton had a flair for the dramatic and this game would be no different.

Roloson almost willed Tampa to the Stanley Cup Final.
Roloson almost willed Tampa to the Stanley Cup Final.

 At 12:27 of the third period, the Bruins finally solved the 1-3-1 trap enigma. Defenseman, Andrew Ference found a wrinkle in the defense, feeding David Krejci a crisp tape to tape pass. Krejci, a playmaker by trade, found Nathan Horton breaking behind the Lightning defense and Dwayne Roloson. Horton tapped in what would be the game’s only tally.

 The Bruins’ defense, led by Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, stifled every offensive push by Tampa for the remainder of the game. Tim Thomas batted away just seven shots (24 saves total) in the third period and the Bruins were on their way to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1990.

Nathan Horton was on his way to legend status with three game winning goals in the playoffs including two Game Seven winners. For a team to win a championship, players such as Nathan Horton needed to emerge and perform at a higher level. With no prior post-season experience, Horton did not let the pressure rattle him; rather, he thrived on it. Just like Horton, the 2010-2011 Boston Bruins did not fear the unknown, they embraced it.


Check out the other installments in the series:



Games That Defined A Stanley Cup Champion: Bruins at Canadiens

Games That Defined A Stanley Cup Champion: Bruins at Flyers