BOSTON -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; Nathan Horton has played in the warm weather before. Hesjust never done it in late May.
And in case you werent counting, thats now threegame-winning goals in his first Stanley Cup playoff experience.
It was 80 degrees in Boston on Friday afternoon, and Friday night marked his third game-winner -- his eighth goalof the postseason -- as he finished a perfect pass from David Krejci with7:33 left in the third period. It broke a scoreless game, and proved to be thedifference-maker in sending the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals for the firsttime since 1990.
Horton, who was traded to Boston from Florida in theoffseason, has answered any and all questions as to whether or not he wouldface playoff jitters in his first go-around.
If he didnt get the message across with two overtimegame-winners in Games 5 and 7 of the Bruins first-round series with theCanadiens, he pounded it home once again in Game 7 of the Eastern ConferenceFinals, as the Bs defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0.
Its been a long road, said Horton after the win. A lotof hard work, a lot of days at the rink. But it makes it nice when youre atthe rink with a great organization.
I played a long time without being in the playoffs. Itsbeen a long road to get there, and I realize thats its not easy, and yourenot going to get this opportunity every time, so youve got to make the best ofit.
Horton put his stick on the ice and burst past a group offlat-footed Tampa Bay defensemen, as Krejci took the puck over the blue lineand down into the lower-left circle. Krejci turned and slowed the play down,and found Horton going hard to the right post.
The result was a goal, and what turned out to be another game-winnerfor Horton.
It feels good, said Horton. We only got one goal, andthats all we needed tonight.
I saw Krejci and he had a lot of speed, and hes got thepuck and they were flat footed, he said. I had some speed too, so I justtried to get to the net, get him some space, and he gave me a great pass.
For his first playoffs, hes been unbelievable, saidveteran Mark Recchi after the win. Not only with goals, but hes battled. Hesbattled hard, hes competed hard every night. Hes been a complete warrior, andhes been a heck of a player for us. Hes led the way, competitive-wise, andits great."
His competitiveness got him back on the ice in the secondperiod after he went to the dressing room in the first period, following a hithe took from Blair Jones.
Horton described it as just a little bump and returned tobe the hero.
We knew hed be back, said Recchi with a laugh. Hesfine. Hes a competitive guy.
Every series, it just keeps getting harder to explain howgood that feeling is, said Horton.
Im excited to be here. It feels good, and it keeps gettingbetter. Its definitely nice to score a game-winner, and just be a contributingplayer to help our team win. It feels pretty good.
Danny Picard is onTwitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.