Horton the happiest of all of the heroes
Somewhere under the pile of celebrating Bruins, Nathan Horton was grinning.
The 25-year-old right wing had pounced on a rebound at 9:03 of the second overtime last night to give the Bruins a 2-1 victory over Montreal and a 3-2 lead in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
The crowd of 17,565 that packed TD Garden rocked with jubilant noise after Horton rapped in the rebound of Andrew Ference’s blue line wrist shot. The rest of the Bruins came barreling off the bench to mob Horton.
Horton is nearly always sporting a grin, but the one he wore after this game was just about to jump off his face.
“It feels so good,’’ said Horton. “We knew it was going to be a greasy goal and it sure was. It was a rebound. But they all count and that was a big goal for us.
“We had control of the puck and I saw the rebound come out. It was just sitting there. It felt good to put that in the net and win the game. It’s a pretty special moment.’’
It was a huge goal for Horton, who is playing in his seventh NHL season but his first playoff series.
Horton skates on the Bruins’ top line with center David Krejci and Milan Lucic, from whom so much was expected and not much had been forthcoming in the first four games.
Horton scored in Game 3, the Bruins’ first victory in the series, but the first line had been outplayed by both the second and third lines.
But Horton, who had 26 goals and 27 assists in the regular season, is only counting one thing now.
“It’s a team game,’’ said Horton. “In the playoffs, it don’t matter who scores, it matters who wins.’’
Montreal gave the Bruins all they could handle last night as the Bruins tried to turn the series back in their favor.
“They’ve been battling hard against us all season and all playoffs, and we know they’re a fast-skating team,’’ said Horton. “They have little forwards that skate real fast and we’ve got to really work real hard to contain them, and really press back on the backcheck and really play smart.
“You saw in the first couple of games, we turned the puck over and it was in the back of the net. That’s something we wanted to limit. At times we still do it, but, all in all, we’re playing the way we want to play and it feels good to play as a team.’’
As the game lurched on from the first to the second overtime, Horton said the Bruins only grew more excited, more ready to win.
“We were excited to get back out there and start over,’’ Horton said. “We knew we were playing well. We know that they’re tired, too, so we’re just pushing through it. You put it in the back of our mind when you’re playing double overtime, the first overtime, it doesn’t matter — you focus on what you have to do to get the job done.’’
Horton got the chance to be the hero only moments after Bruins goalie Tim Thomas (44 saves), made his most spectacular stop of the game.
Travis Moen and Brian Gionta escaped down the ice on a 2-on-1 break, and when Moen fed a pass across the slot to Gionta, it seemed as if the former Boston College star might bring the Bruins crashing down one more time. But Thomas flashed across the crease to his left to make the save.
While players lined up for a faceoff to Thomas’s left, teammates came back to tap Thomas on the pads, while the fans in the stands resumed their breathing.
“That was huge for us,’’ ’ said Horton. “That was a big lift and he’s been doing that for us all year. What a special goaltender.
“That definitely gave us a big lift and gave us a little bit of momentum to carry on after that.’’
There was a succession of strong plays from several other teammates. Brad Marchand, who scored the Bruins’ first goal, had a pair of good chances on his next shift, and then defenseman Zdeno Chara rode Gionta out of a scoring rush behind Thomas’s net, setting the Bruins off toward the Montreal end one more time.
“It’s awesome,’’ said Horton. “It’s a great experience.
“You don’t know until you’re truly there, until you feel it, how exciting it is to be a hockey player.’’