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HOCKEY

Thomas, Roloson needed to be perfect; only one was

BOSTON (AP) - Tim Thomas and Dwayne Roloson matched each other save for save for more than 50 minutes in the decisive seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals.

They both needed to be perfect.

Only one of them was.

Nathan Horton beat Roloson with 7:33 left for the only goal of the game, and the Boston Bruins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 on Friday night to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1990.

For Roloson, who was yanked twice in the series and benched for another game, it was a stellar performance but not the shutout he needed for the Lightning to advance.

"I don't think he could have stopped that puck, and I don't think he could have done better than he did tonight," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "To come back that strong in the seventh game, I think it's just a credit to the man."

Roloson stopped 37 shots in all as the Bruins dominated the game but couldn't convert any of their early scoring chances. Roloson stopped Milan Lucic on a breakaway in the first period and stopped Mark Recchi twice in quick succession in the second, leaving the game goal- and penalty-free more than halfway through the third.

"I think it was overtime the entire game, to be honest with you," Boucher said. "That's how it felt, and I think the other team probably felt like that, too. It was for who was going to make that one mistake and it was us."

Thomas made only 24 saves in the game, but that was enough.

"He was outstanding again. We just couldn't put one in," Boucher said. "They have guys that can put the puck in the net and defend. Obviously, they've got it all."

It was still scoreless when Andrew Ference passed it to David Krejci on the left side and Horton slid around to the right, where he received Krejci's centering pass and delicately deflected it around Roloson's left pad into the net.

"It's hard to look at. One little defensive mistake," Boucher said. "They deserved that goal. They made it happen and they're going to the Stanley Cup finals."

Roloson, acquired from the New York Islanders on Jan. 1, started Tampa Bay's first 15 postseason games this year, though he was pulled from Game 2 and again in Game 4. Mike Smith started Game 5, a 3-1 Boston victory that put the Bruins within one win of clinching, but when it came time to stave off elimination Boucher went back to Roloson.

The 41-year-old goalie improved to 7-0 in his career in elimination games, but couldn't make it 8 for 8 with a trip to the Stanley Cup finals on the line.

"Roli played great for us. Really made some huge saves and kept us in there," forward Vincent Lecavalier said. "Since the first day he came onto our team, he has been a great leader. He has been real steady back there for us and gave us that confidence to be able to play and knowing that he is going to make the big saves."