A hard-luck night for Horton

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By Barbara Matson
Globe Correspondent / November 7, 2010

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Nathan Horton seems to have a grin on his face ever since the June day he was traded to the Bruins. Released from the purgatory that six years in Florida had been for the 25-year-old right wing, Horton is happy to be here. His best year with the Panthers was the 2006-07 season, when he had 31 goals and 31 assists in 82 games, but the Sunshine Staters never saw the light of the playoffs in his time there.

And the Bruins are happy to have him; his offensive talents quickly bloomed under the bright lights at TD Garden. In his first six games, he had five goals and four assists, and after 11 games, he leads the team with 11 points.

But Horton could easily have packed a few more points onto his pile in last night’s 2-1 overtime shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues. Horton was credited with eight shots, and another that was blocked by the defense. Moreover, he ticked the puck off the post in the first period, and off the crossbar in the second. Both shots were sent to the video review team, and neither was deemed a goal.

“I just keep pressing, never give up,’’ said Horton, who managed a smile after the game, if not a grin. “Sooner or later they’re going to go in.’’

Horton didn’t see either puck hit iron and bounce the wrong way; he just heard the sold-out crowd cheering in celebration.

“I got hit both times after I shot it,’’ he said, “so I was just going off the reaction of the crowd. It’s kind of tough luck, I guess.’’

In the first period, Horton knocked a pair of shots at the St. Louis goal from close range, one backhand and one forehand, but both were denied by hot-handed Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak, who made 33 saves. Horton next fired a turnaround shot from the right circle that beat Halak, but went wide of the left post.

Midway through the second period, with the Bruins trailing, 1-0, Horton snapped off a wrist shot from about 20 feet. This time, the puck sailed past Halak’s shoulder, hit the crossbar, and fell to the ice, landing on the goal line on its side, but rolling away from the net.

“You know, it’s not too often where you get two goals in the same game called back,’’ said Gregory Campbell, who pocketed his first goal of the season for the Bruins’ only score. “But he had a lot of opportunities and sometimes it’s going to go that way. You know, some nights it’s going to go the other way for us, but he’s creating a lot for us and so is that line and that’s good.’’

Before last night’s game, Bruins coach Claude Julien said he had encouraged Horton to shoot more.

“If he can do that, I think he’s going to be even more successful,’’ Julien said. “He’s got David [Krejci] as a centerman, who will always look to find him and make plays and if he’s ready, he’s going to get some opportunities. But you want your shooters to shoot more.’’

After the loss, Julien still was impressed with Horton’s effort.

“I thought he played a great game,’’ Julien said. “He shot more, but he also battled, you know. It’s unfortunate our guys were hitting a lot of posts and none of them were going in the right direction. I thought we were snake-bit a little — two goals that had to be reviewed and even in the shootout, we score one and the other two are posts.’’

Horton wasn’t showing any frustration, just a little wistfulness.

“It would have been nice for one of them to go in,’’ he said.

“I tried to get more shots. I think I had more opportunities and our line had more opportunities, so definitely it would have been nice for one of those to go in.’’

Even Horton’s chief opponent acknowledged there was as much fortune as finesse in the Blues’ success.

“Lucky for us the posts,’’ said Halak, “but we will take it for sure. It could have gone either way, but we will take two points and get ready for tomorrow.’’

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