A rare smile-less moment/By S. Bradley

BOSTON — I’d bet money that when Nathan Horton stubs his toe going for a drink of water in the dark in the middle of the night, he still smiles and relishes how great he has it now that he’s playing hockey in Boston.

If Horton has two favorite words, they’re “great” and “exciting” — especially when it comes to talking about Boston, the fans and his teammates. Those are probably words the Bruins and their fans would use if they wanted to understate how important the power forward has been to the team leading up to, and now after, his game-winning goal in Game 7 of Boston’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Montreal tonight at the TD Garden.

Once mired in a mid-winter swoon that seemed like he’d barely be able to reach 20 goals in the regular season, Horton finished with 26. At this point, it wouldn’t have mattered if he took a goose egg because two of his three playoff goals have been overtime game-winners.

“I’m really enjoying it. Every day is exciting,” said Horton, who waited seven years with the Florida Panthers to finally get a chance to compete in the NHL playoffs. “Every day is a new day, but it feels good, definitely, to get used to this, continue winning. That’s what it’s all about.”

Some words of wisdom from team president Cam Neely might’ve just done the trick for Boston’s playoff neophyte who has now written his own chapter in Bruins postseason annals.

“Well I just, for me, it was more about just enjoy what it’s like to play in Boston in a hockey city that has a huge fan base and is passionate about their team and their players,” Neely said as he held court in the Bruins’ locker room, further establishing himself as the face of the franchise. “And just kind of feed off of that and enjoy it really. This is a fun game. It is a sport, it’s a game, it’s not fun all the time but for the most part it should be fun.”

It’s more fun when you win, and the Bruins are doing that because Horton has come along to save the day. Sure Adam McQuaid made a great pinch and battled for the puck, and Milan Lucic lugged the puck out of traffic and made the dish, but it was Horton and his lethal slap shot (with help from a deflection) that put the Canadiens out of their misery.

“You know, just getting to the playoffs, that’s what I was thinking about,” said Horton about how he envisioned life as a Bruins when he was traded. “It’s, again, this is like a dream come true and for us to win in Game 7 is pretty special. But we still have a long way to go, a lot of work ahead of us.”

No doubt, Horton thinks this is great and he’s excited to get back to that work. If that’s what keeps Horton ticking and scoring, the Bruins will take it.