Bruins punch ticket to second round

Boston Bruins' Mark Recchi celebrates his goal on the Montreal Canadiens with teammates.  ...

Boston Bruins' Mark Recchi celebrates his goal on the Montreal Canadiens with teammates. (REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:49 AM ET

When the Boston Bruins acquired Nathan Horton from the Florida Panthers in June, it wasn’t based on his playoff record.

He had hadn’t played a single playoff game in the first six years of his career.

But now, here he is just seven games into his post-season career and the 25-year-old has already got a start on an incredible resume.

Two overtime winners?

C’mon.

Horton’s second overtime goal of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal sent the Bruins on to the second round against the Philadelphia Flyers and ousted a Montreal Canadiens team that couldn’t come up with another Game 7 miracle. A power-play goal by Montreal rookie P.K. Subban with two minutes left in the third period sent the game to overtime as the Canadiens battled back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits and added to the wonderful hockey we’ve seen in this opening round.

“I haven’t been in the playoffs for a long time. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it,” said Horton, whose shot from the top of the slot changed direction and beat Canadiens goaltender Carey Price at 5:43 of the first overtime to end a spectacular stretch of hockey and give the Bruins the 4-3 win.

“It’s definitely better than I imagined.”

“I guess he was saving them for so long, now he’s getting those game winners,” said Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron, who was in the box when Subban scored to tie it. “I’m so happy for him. He deserves it. It’s pretty hard not to be happy after a goal like that. He’s always smiling, always happy to be here, so we’re just happy to have him around.”

After twice coming back last spring to win seven-game series against favoured opponents, and battling back Wednesday night, the Canadiens couldn’t find a way to win this one.

“I saw the pass go across and he let one go. It hit something and went in the corner. It was a pretty typical overtime goal,” said Price, who matched huge save after huge save with Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas.

In another wonderful twist that should help continue the momentum of a what might have been the best opening round of the NHL playoffs ever (I can’t think if another one, really) the Bruins will now play the Flyers in the second round. The Flyers became just the third team in NHL history to come back from being down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series to beat the B’s last spring.

“It gives you guys more to write about, I’m sure, said Bruins president and former great Cam Neely. “We don’t have the same team as we did last year and Philly doesn’t have the exact same team, either. That’s certainly to be mentioned a lot and talked a lot about. First and foremost we have to concern ourselves with how we play that first game.”

The Bruins will open against the Flyers at 3 p.m. Saturday with Game 2 Monday night.

The Bruins had seen their last three trips to the playoffs end in Game 7 defeats.

They advanced past the Habs despite not scoring a power-play goal in the series (0-for-21) and after they traded for offensive defenceman Tomas Kaberle from the Toronto Maple Leafs in a high-profile deal that cost the Bruins prospect Joe Colborne, a first-round draft pick in this year’s draft and a 2012 second-round conditional pick.

How much time do you think the Bruins will spend on the power play over the next couple of days?

The victory eased the dark mood here that had lingered after the collapse against the Flyers with rumours coach Claude Julien’s job was on the line.

What a game.

What a first round.

Notes: Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference is expected to have a hearing with league officials Thursday morning concerning his hit on Montreal Canadien Jeff Halpern Wednesday night.


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