BOSTON – Andrew Ference’s persistence finally paid off in Game 7.
For six games, he insisted that the Bruins could crack Tampa Bay’s passive forecheck system with a particular play. In the third period of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, he ran the play and it resulted in a goal by Nathan Horton, the only goal in Boston’s series-clinching 1-0 victory at TD Garden.
With the win, Boston advances to its first Stanley Cup Final in 21 years.
Ference will be remembered as the player who started the winning-goal sequence. He had the puck on his stick in the neutral zone and hit David Krejci with a perfect seam pass that split two Tampa Bay players and allowed him to enter the zone with speed. As Krejci angled wide, Nathan Horton drove the net hard and was in perfect position to beat the defenseman and get his stick on a silky smooth pass from his centerman. Horton steered the puck past Dwayne Roloson, who had been impenetrable to that point.
It was Horton’s second game-winning Game 7 goal of the postseason. He also eliminated Montreal in the first round – in OT no less.
After Horton scored Friday night, Boston had to hold on for the final 7:33 of the game as Tampa Bay made its final push. Ference was also a big part of that, blocking shots and playing stout defense in front of Tim Thomas, who registered his second shutout of the series.
For the game, Ference played 20:10, had five shots on net, registered three hits and blocked three shots.
Here is what he had to say after the game:
Q: That was some Game 7?
A: We just talked about it. It was an incredible hockey game. A couple of guys in here just said they (Tampa Bay) can’t hang their heads; they played a great hockey game. I don’t know, we have been waiting for that 60-minute game, and that was it. We had a good start, a good middle and we just kind of kept it up. I was impressed. It was a heart-stopper because it was so close. Both sides played good. It was a great Game 7. Persistence paid off.
Q: Tell me what you saw on that goal?
A: I was waiting for that all series. All series, I talked about that play with (assistant coach) Doug Houda; I think since Game 1. Johnny (Boychuk) and I have been in that situation 50 or 60 times in this series where we have to bring up the puck into the forecheck that they have. Game 1 we drew that play up and said “Boys, look for this play, look for this play, it’s going to work.” We tried it a couple of times, but really this is the first time it worked. The timing was right and Krejci came through with perfect timing and obviously the finish was sick. We have been waiting for that neutral zone play for seven games.
Q: That’s what you needed tonight to beat Roloson -- perfection?
A: Yeah. I mean, he was great. He was. There were a lot of chances and a lot of second chances and he was excellent.
Q: Did you think you had seen the end of Horton when he went off in the first period?
A: I didn’t even know he went off. Horton? Really? I didn’t even know he went off. Shows how much I’m paying attention.
Q: You guys talked about discipline and getting shots on net and you did both. Did you guys play your game plan to a T?
A: We did both. The refs let us play. There were penalties that could have been called on either side. But both teams did have great discipline and played a great hockey game. The refs let us play and I think it was even up and I don’t think either team got gypped in that category. We stuck with that, better than the 20 shots we had the last couple of games and we needed them. I don’t know what shot ended up going in, but it was up there.
Q: It was a tight game, everything you expected from a Game 7, wasn’t it?
A: I feel bad for the guys that have to watch it. When you are at least playing, you are out there, involved and at least into it. But it was a nail-biter. I’m sure our families are on the heart medication. But it’s the way it should be. I think you finally saw the true colors of both teams; really solid systems, good skill at times and great goaltending. I don’t know that may have been the first game we both played the way we wanted to. Luckily it ended up for us.