Posted by Adam Bierenbaum on 7th June 2011
When this years Stanley Cup finals comes to an end, we may look back at the 5:07 mark of the first period of last nights game 3, as the turning point in the series. Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton was skating near the middle of the ice, when he fed a pass to Milan Lucic on the left side, but, with Horton’s head still turned that way, Aaron Rome of the Vancouver Canucks, launched into him at the blue line. Horton’s head hit hard on the ice as the two players spilled to the ground. Immediately after the dirty hit, the raucous TD Garden fans instantly turned into a silent, and anxious fan base. As Horton lay on his back, cameras caught his eyes rolling back; the capacity crowd took a collective breath. Horton, who is second on the Bruins in postseason points, was cared to on ice for an extremely long time before he was finally taken of the ice on a stretcher. Watching this unfold, you had to wonder if this hit was the nail in the coffin for the Bruins, who are searching for their first title since 1973. How would the Bruins respond to watching one of their leaders, lay on the ice motionless?
Well, the Bruins did not score on the ensuing five-minute power play, nor did they tally a goal in the first period. It looked like they were physically tired, and emotionally spent. But then in the locker room, in between periods, something happened. Reports came in from Massachusetts General Hospital that Horton was “moving all his extremities.” The Bruins were finally able to take their mind for a little bit, off their fallen teammate and onto the task at hand. Bruins Coach Claude Julien implored his team to respond in a way that would make Horton proud. This was one of the moments that you usually only see in movies. One of those rare moments that can draw a team together and propel them forward. The Bruins seized this moment and never looked back.
It was time for the Bruins to finally get some payback. They decided not to respond with fists, but with something that hurts much more…. Goals. They rallied around Horton, their battered teammate. They propped up their embattled coach, then cashed in on their chance at redemption behind their goaltender Tim Thomas, who was again, in the words of Daniel Sedin, “beyond unbelievable.” The Bruins were finally playing with a purpose, as they went on to blow the Canucks out 8-1. They played such a hard-nosed, physical game, something we hadn’t seen in this final yet from the B’s.
There was no better moment that exemplified the Bruins’ play last night than when Henrik Sedin, who leads the Canucks with 21 playoff points, attempted to bat down the puck right in front of the Bruins’ crease in an array of third-period activity. Tim Thomas sized up the young center, then sent him to the ice with a cross check that sent one message. Not in My House, and Certainly Not Tonight.
As the Bruins left the Arena last night, there were a lot of questions to be answered. They didn’t know how their teammate was doing, or how they are going to play without Horton for the rest of the series. The one thing they did know though, was that they represented Horton in a way that would make him proud.