After Wednesday night’s game-winning tally 5:43 into overtime to give the Bruins a 4-3 win and their first Game 7 victory in 17 years, Nathan Horton
fulfilled those dreams.
“This is like a dream come true and for us to win in Game 7 is pretty special,” Horton said after the game.
The pure elation of the goal was almost too much for Horton to handle.
“It was pretty nice. I mean, it felt pretty good. I don’t remember too much. I remember [Milan Lucic] coming up with the puck and I just tried to get open, and I tried putting the puck towards the net. Luckily it got deflected off someone and it went straight in,” said Horton.
“That’s all I remember. It was pretty special, again, it doesn’t get any better.”
Horton is a new face in Boston, but not one that will soon be forgotten.
He beat the Canadiens. He turned a series that could have added another disappointing chapter to the Bruins history into a series that will not soon be forgotten—this time for all the right reasons.
“You understand how big a piece of the puzzle this guy’s been for our hockey club,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said.
Horton has certainly made the most of his first playoff experience. After spending six seasons with the Florida Panthers with a tee time scheduled every mid-April, Horton led Boston past the Montreal Canadiens in more ways—and games—than one.
“I’m really enjoying it. Every day is exciting. Every day is a new day, but it feels good, definitely, to get used to this, continue winning. That’s what it’s all about,” Horton said.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, so it’s definitely better than I imagined. It’s fun to be here, and it’s exciting.”
In seven postseason games Horton has three goals, including two overtime game-winners.
“It’s his first playoffs. He’s been in the league a handful of years, and he was excited about getting to Boston, excited about playing in the playoffs. He’s scored a couple big goals for us,” said Bruins President Cam Neely.
“I think if you look at hockey players’ careers, the first thing you kind of look for is their playoff career more so than their regular season career. And I think guys understand that and they know that. They know what playoff hockey is all about. They get excited about playoff hockey. And Nate is no different,” Neely continued.
“He’s come in here and held his game and scored big goals for us.”
Horton was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers that sent he and Gregory Campbell to Boston in exchange for Dennis Wideman and draft picks during the offseason. Despite dealing a solid player, the trade has been good for Boston. Campbell has been a steady center on Boston’s fourth line all season and Horton has been a monster with the top trio.
“I’ve liked this trade for us, what Horton brings to the team and also what Campbell has brought to the team. Both these guys are a big part of our club,” Neely said.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound right-winger has found his game in Boston. Horton has developed into more than just a sniper, using his big frame to make space for himself on the ice.
Still young at just 25-years-old, Horton has grown into his game, and if he continues on this path, will have many more key moments for Boston.
“What I saw from Nathan [Horton] half-point on until the end was that it was a guy who really became a lot more consistent in his game, his preparation was good. Whether he scored or not, he was battling, he played hard,” said Julien.
“So I think he’s really grown a lot in the second half and right now scoring those two big goals, he’s been saving it for seven years, right? So he had a lot of winning goals in him.”
Horton never had a chance to shine during the playoffs while with Florida, but when he arrived in Boston his teammates knew he had this type of heroic play somewhere inside.
“It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. But he’s making a name for himself as a big game player and that’s great to see. For a guy who has never had the opportunity to play in the playoffs, he’s making a reputation,” goaltender Tim Thomas said.
“We wouldn’t have won this series without him.”
Assistant captain Patrice Bergeron was just as excited as Thomas to see Horton succeed.
“I’m so happy for him. He deserves it, but at the same time, that’s him. He’s a clutch player, he’s a great player and I’m just happy to have him on our side,” said Bergeron.
Even one of his newest teammates, Chris Kelly, who joined the Bruins just prior to the trade deadline, had a smile on his face when speaking of Horton.
“It’s a great feeling to see a guy like that contribute with two huge OT goals. He works hard every day. That line has been producing for us since I got here, and for a lot of games they were the only line producing. It was great to see them sum up the series with the game winner,” said Kelly.
Horton climbed to the NHL quickly, beginning in the OHL and stopping only briefly in the AHL before cementing his position in the big time.
As to where along the way Horton learned his overtime, game-winning, sniping skills? Thomas has the answer.
“NHL 2010, I think.”