BOSTON -- All it took was health to revert Nathan Horton back to his clutch, game-winning ways.
The Bruins right winger racked up his third goal of the season at a perfect time with little more than four minutes to go in the third period, but seems to be a variation on a theme this year. Horton powered the only regulation goal for Boston in a 2-1 shootout win at TD Garden that was gritty, grinding and exactly the kind of heavyweight fight one expects between the Bruins and Devils.
It was the second time this season that Horton banged home the game-tying goal in the last five minutes of the third period after having just three of those total in eight NHL seasons.
The score was a breakthrough for a Bruins team that experienced difficulty finding open offensive space in a heavy game against the quality New Jersey club. True to form Boston's best players kept plugging until something broke for them.
Hortons goal also clinched that the winger has points in four straight games for the Bruins, and holds a very respectable five points (3 goals, 2 assists) in six games on his season ledger with the Black and Gold. The goal started with Krejci dipping deep into the B's defensive zone to lend support to Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg, and then the Bruins center turned up ice with speed.
Krejci hit Lucic with a pass in stride before the puck was dished back to him in the middle, and he found Horton moving to the net. The Bruins right wing pushed the puck between the five-hole opening in Johan Hedberg's for the score Boston had waited nearly 60 minutes to celebrate.
It was a great play by our linemates there, Looch Milan Lucic made a great pass to Krech David Krejci and Krech took everybody and left me wide open, said Horton. I just tried to get it to net, I just fanned on it but then it went in the right place.
I guess I shouldnt say that I actually missed my shot, but I did. It feels great to contribute and help the team, whether its anything, a hit. Im just trying to work hard and do the best I can and not let my teammates down.
Horton hasnt let one person down while playing tough, physical, productive hockey for the Bruins that makes him such a unique blend of physical power and streaky skill. He also had the only two shots on goal for his forward group, meaning both Lucic and Krejci finished without a single shot on net in 65 regulation minutes.
It was also only fitting the forward line of Horton, David Krejci and Milan Lucic were the ones to make it happen for the Bs in crunch time. After all those are some of the forwards that currently enjoy the multiple-game point streaks, and some have consistently been Bostons best skaters over the first six games.
I said it a million times already, this was a line that had a question mark on them because one guy hadnt played in a year and the other guy didnt play at all during the lockout, said Claude Julien. David Krejci was the only one having played. So being one of our top lines, you want to be able to rely on those guys. We have and theyve certainly given us exactly what we need right now.
It was a breakout shift for all three forwards where each of them touched the puck: Lucic skated it down the left wing side and centered a pass to Krejci streaking up the middle as the two-way center drew the attention of the New Jersey defense. The rush of the lines other two forwards allowed Krejci to feed Horton swooping in through the right face-off circle for the kind of chance a natural goal-scorer feeds on.
Knowing Hortons reputation as a Game 7 playoff hero and the clear evidence over the last six games that hes 100 percent back to his level of play prior to the concussions, there wasnt a question he would bury the shot. He did that just that by burying it between Hedberg's equipment.
With a guy with as much heart and leader on our team like Horty Nathan Horton is, seeing him do well really lifts everybody up, said Tyler Seguin. Hes definitely a true leader, so I think everyone here has a lot of confidence.
The Horton heroics allowed the Bruins to salvage at least a point by earning their way into overtime after trailing for most of the game, and it eventually pushed them to a full two points in the shootout victory.
None of that would have been possible without the help of Horton, who is ably playing the role of late-game hero for the Black and Gold while showing exactly how good he can be with Boston counting upon him.