The Bruins love Nathan Horton as, by all accounts, he’s one of the best teammates any NHL player could ask for. When he plays like he did on Thursday night, however, he must be their favorite guy in the world.
The big forward with the even bigger smile played his best game of the season, scoring two goals and leading the Bruins to a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning to open a two-game swing through Florida, a trip that has given the B’s fits in the past.
The Bruins have to hope that the two-goal outburst can really get Horton going, with the schedule about to pick up. Horton has shown flashes of brilliance this season, but he’s struggled to put together a stretch of dominant hockey like he’s shown the ability to do in the past.
It was certainly a great way for Horton bounce out of a two-game slump of sorts, a stretch in which he was a combined minus-4 with seven shots combined.
“He played a pretty solid game tonight, and he scored some big goals,” Boston head coach Claude Julien said after the win. “So hopefully that’s great for his confidence and great for that line and hopefully we can move forward from here.”
Horton’s linemates certainly deserve some credit as well. While both David Krejci and Milan Lucic were held pointless on the evening, both played strong games, doing the little things that helped put Horton in a position to be successful offensively on a night where Horton put six shots on Tampa Bay goalie Anders Lindback.
“It’s nice to finally get on the board again,” Krejci said. “Horts had two, and he could have had three. I’m sure he’s gonna have another chance to get a hat trick.”
Maybe it was seeing a familiar foe across the ice that helped Horton break out. He’s tortured the Lightning dating back to his days with Florida, and that continued on Thursday. With the pair of goals, Horton now has 26 goals and 20 assists in 45 career games against the Bolts.
Again, the Bruins are hoping that this two-goal effort is what’s going to propel Horton into a hot streak. He’s a goal-scorer, and tallies usually come in bunches for players like Horton.
Recent history indicates that a hot stretch from Horton may be on the way. Look no further to last season for proof of that. Horton scored two goals on Nov. 7, and that kick-started a six-game stretch in which he scored four goals and added four assists. A couple of months later Horton scored a pair of goals on Jan. 12. That opened an eight-game stretch in which he scored seven goals and added a couple of assists.
Horton could have added another for the third hat trick of his career, but it just wasn’t meant to be as he hit the post twice on two empty-net attempts in the game’s final shift.
“I mean [it would have been nice to have the hat trick], yeah but it really doesn’t matter,” Horton said. “We won the game, so everyone’s happy. That’s what matters most.”
That’s the type of attitude that makes Horton a good teammate, but putting the puck in the net like he did Thursday night doesn’t hurt either. After a relatively slow start to the season, getting Horton going could play a key role in making sure the Bruins continue their winning ways.