BOSTON -- Nathan Horton's smile brought about an even more frenzied response from the TD Garden crowd than any of the goals the Bruins scored in Monday's 5-2 victory against Vancouver in Game 6.
Horton, who suffered a concussion after a late hit from Aaron Rome early in Game 3, has been ruled out of the rest of the series. But, the first-line wing, who scored the winning goal in each of Boston's previous two Game 7s in these playoffs, was at the Garden to cheer on his teammates.
During the first time out, the scoreboard showed Horton standing in the Zamboni entrance, clutching a yellow rally towel in each fist and flashing the omnipresent smile that has won over this town in one short season. On the verge of tears, he mouthed the words, "thank you" before the camera cut away.
Suddenly, the crowd was going crazy and the Boston players on the bench were eagerly banging their sticks against the board.
Before the crowd could even catch its breath from the surprise of seeing Horton, Boston went on a historic run that featured four goals in four minutes and 14 seconds.
The TD Garden crowd erupted and everyone on the Bruins' bench clapped or tapped his stick against the boards. Before you knew it, the Bruins had a 4-0 lead and had chased Vancouver netminder Roberto Luongo from the game.
"It reminded us that there's a guy who would love to be on the bench with us or on the ice," said David Krejci, Horton's usual center. "We tried to play for him too."
Brad Marchand, who scored the opening goal in the game at the 5:31 mark, said the sight of Horton smiling and cheering on his teammates was a huge boost.
"Yeah, we didn't know that they were going to be doing that and showing him up there," Marchand said. "You know for him to come in and give us that boost of energy is unbelievable. And, obviously, the crowd loves it and loves him. They're supporting him every minute of the day. It was great to see him out there."