– The last time Nathan Horton
scored multiple goals, before Thursday night’s game against Tampa Bay, was January 17, 2012 (also against the Lightning). That was before he suffered his second concussion in under a year and was forced to miss the rest of the season.
Horton’s performance in the Black & Gold’s 4-2 victory over the Lightning showed how far he has come in his recovery. Horton potted a pair of goals to give him six on the season, good for second on the Bruins behind Brad Marchand, who has nine.
The line of Horton, Milan Lucic, and David Krejci was buzzing all night and they didn’t waste any time in setting a tone.
Just 1:11 into the game, Horton picked up a loose puck at his own blue line and skated into the Lightning’s zone. He found Krejci, who tried to get it back to Horton, but the pass was broken up.
The puck bounced right to Dougie Hamilton, skating in from the blue line. Hamilton’s shot was knocked down in the crease and Horton, who had circled the net, came out front and fired the puck into a wide open net to give the B’s a 1-0 lead.
“Feels a lot better when you’re playing with the lead,” said Horton, who also had a game-high six shots on goal. “That’s what we wanted, we want to get out there and have a quick start. We got two quick ones; I think that was the key to the game, key to our start for sure.
“We had a good start, I think that’s what carried it through the game.”
Horton’s second goal came just over two minutes into the third period, with the Bruins holding on to a 3-2 lead. It was scored from almost the exact same spot as his first goal, but required a totally different set of skills.
After Krejci picked up the puck along the half wall, and delivered a through-the-legs pass to Hamilton at the point, Hamilton fired a pass across the blue line to Zdeno Chara. Chara then fired a slapper to the front of the net, where Horton redirected the puck past Lightning goalie Anders Linback, to put the Bruins up by two.
“We didn’t talk about it, but he made a great play on the goal,” said Horton, when asked if he and Chara had set up the play beforehand. “I didn’t know the goalie was out that far. I don’t know if somebody pushed him out, but he was out far and I just tipped it to the net and the net was wide open. It was a great play by Zdeno.
“Goalies come out so far to challenge now, they try to take away the angle and you get the back door plays and the rebounds. That’s where we score a lot of the goals.”
Horton had two golden chances at a hat trick in the closing seconds of the game, but twice hit iron with the goal empty.
Besides those two missed opportunities, B’s Head Coach, Claude Julien, thought his team was much better at capitalizing on its chances. He gave much of the credit to Horton for leading the way.
“Horts couldn’t finish his hat trick, I don’t know how many chances he got,” Julien quipped following the victory. “But we did finish much, much better tonight – around the net we were burying them.
“You look at Horts – both goals – [on the first goal] he really shot that thing hard like there was a purpose behind it. We need to do a little bit more of that. [If] guys like Horts start scoring, it makes our team that much better.”
Julien was happy to see Horton have success, especially with the adversity No. 18 has had to face over the past year. Coach added that when Horton plays like he did on Thursday night, the Bruins have a special player.
“He was good tonight,” Julien said. “That’s what you want to see more from him, is that powerful winger, he’s one of the elite right wingers in the league when he’s on top of his game.
“He’s got so much potential, and we know that he’s been through some tough times with that concussion. Hopefully we get him back healthy here and get some consistency out of his game, because he certainly deserves it.”