As the minutes kept ticking away and the only thing changing on the scoreboard was the number of shots — no goals, no penalties — a palpable certainty took hold at TD Garden.

It would take only one.

Either by fluke or fine form, one goal was going to determine the Eastern Conference championship, and decide which team would be flying to Vancouver for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.

With a building and a city waiting to erupt, Nathan Horton finally provided the reason. His one shining moment, on his sixth and final shot of a tense, defensive struggle, was the only offense the Bruins would need. Horton's goal with 7 minutes and 33 seconds remaining gave the Bruins a 1-0 win against Tampa Bay in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals last night, clinching the organization's first appearance in the Cup finals since 1990.

"It definitely feels good to get the game-winner, but it feels better to know that we're going to the Stanley Cup [finals],'' said Horton. "It's all about team here. In the end, it doesn't really matter who scores the goals, but it does matter who's moving on, and we are.''

The top line of Horton, Milan Lucic, and David Krejci played like it was an elimination game, combining for 13 of the Bruins' 38 shots. Krejci also did some unheralded dirty work, winning 14 of his 17 faceoffs.

Horton may have scored the goal, but it was Krejci who set it up and deserves a chunk of the credit. Taking a pass from Andrew Ference against the Lightning's 1-3-1 zone, Krejci used his speed to charge down the left side, with Horton initially to his left. When Krejci slowed the play slightly, Horton skated behind him and raced toward the crease. Despite Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer's attempt to block the pass through the slot, Krejci zipped one toward Horton's direction, the puck meeting Horton's stick at the edge of the goal line. Goalie Dwayne Roloson had no chance.