Horton was pushing up ice after pressure from Zdeno Chara on Phil Kessel had caused the puck to come free along the boards. Catching a glimpse of Phaneuf coming up on him, the forward quickly tried to push the puck to his linemate, David Krejci, as he was absorbing the hit.
"I knew he was coming; I tried get myself around him too when I tipped the puck, and obviously he took me out, and I couldn’t get around him," Horton said of the Phaneuf hit, as he spoke to reporters Thursday at TD Garden during the Bruins' optional skate day. "But it worked out well because Dave got it."
"It happened, but if it wouldn't have been for Horty - he took that hit to make a play," said Krejci Wednesday night, after scoring the overtime-winner eight seconds after the hit, to cap off his hat trick in the 4-3 win.
"The little things make a big difference in hockey and this OT goal was a perfect example."
The play, which gives some literal meaning to the cliche "taking one for the team," earned Horton the Bruins "Player of the Game" Army Rangers jacket passed on from the previous Game 3 winner, Milan Lucic.
"They live by a slogan, 'Rangers Lead the Way'," Andrew Ference had explained about the jacket, after it has been given out for the first time, to David Krejci, following the Bruins' Game 1 win at TD Garden. "So I think it's fitting to give this to a player that led the way for us in a game. A lot less important than what [the Rangers] are doing, but for us, it's important to have guys step up. So they get to wear this for the night."
"You know, there are a lot of players who are playing well," said Horton, on receiving the jacket. "Obviously, just a play like that, something nice for Dave to go in and score. I'm just happy I got the puck out to him to have the 2-on-1 and get the goal. It's exciting to win in overtime."
Horton, as a result, had a great vantage point for the goal, as he began to recover from the big hit.
"I was just trying to get up, then I realized it was a 2-on-1, and I was pretty happy when I saw that they scored," added Horton. "I didn’t really see the goal because it hit him a little bit and trickled in, but when I heard everybody cheering, I was pretty excited."
"I had a good view from far back," the forward said, wearing his signature smile. "Looch [Milan Lucic] drove the net, he’s been flying out there. Dave obviously scored the goal. It was definitely nice to see from my angle."
Though, given Horton's history, it was still a brief holding-the-breath moment after seeing him go down.
"Yeah, absolutely. But he got hit in the body, so he’s good," said Coach Julien Thursday morning.
"So far, our guys have been pretty good warriors. That winning goal was one of those where you’ve got one eye looking at that outnumbered situation, the other eye looking at if your other guys is going to be getting up," said Coach.
"It’s a little bit of both, but when that goal was scored, the first thing I did was really look if Nathan was still on the ice or if he was up. He’s fine, it was just, like I said, a bit of body blow from an aggressive forecheck on Phaneuf’s part."
"And it ended up playing in our favor."
As evidenced by Wednesday's battle, the big-time goals are what drive the win, but the little details are often what end up mattering the most in the effort.
"As much as our opponents have been really good and given us a real good challenge, I’m also proud of the way our guys have handled themselves, they’ve done a great job," said Coach. "We’ve found ways to win, we’ve blocked shots, we’ve taken our bumps and bruises like everybody else, and we’ve just gone about our business."
And going about business sometimes involves taking a hit or two, to lead to an OT-winner.
"That’s what we wanted. We wanted to win the game and come back home 3-1," said Horton, before adding later in the media availability that, with him feeling fine, he's 'just ready to get back at 'er' Friday night.
"Obviously a big win for us, and I think everybody feels good today," he said.
"We know the job’s not done; the last one is always the hardest."