BOSTON — Nathan Horton says he never thought once about the idea that he could miss Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final because of a suspension.
When video surfaced Thursday showing Horton squirting a fan with a water bottle and then throwing that bottle into the stands as he exited the ice after Wednesday night’s loss in Tampa, worries abounded that the Bruins sniper might face some discipline.
Well, that discipline never came and the only thing Horton shot in tonight’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final at the TD Garden was the puck into the net with 7:33 in regulation for the lone goal of the night in the Bruins’ dramatic victory.
It was Horton’s second game-winning goal in a Game 7 this playoff season, as he also scored the overtime goal in the final game of Boston’s first-round win over Montreal.
“Well it does feel good,” said Horton, a master of understatement, after the game. “It definitely feels good to get the game-winner but I mean it feels better to know that we’re going to the Stanley Cup playoffs. And it’s all about team here and it’s a pretty amazing feeling. In the end it doesn’t really matter who scores the goals but it does matter if you’re moving on. And we are, so that’s all that matters.”
Horton was injured in a collision with Blair Jones in the first period and missed a good chunk of the session. When the second period started, he was back on the Bruins’ bench. He finished the night with six shots on goal.
On the winning goal, Horton said he just wanted to go to the net because he wasn’t sure what linemate David Krejci had up his sleeve. After veering off to the left on the rush, Krejci fed the puck to the front of the net.
“I didn’t have to do much [Krejci] gave me an unbelievable pass and I mean I was real excited for sure,” said Horton. “It took a long time to get a goal and we wanted to get that first goal. I mean it was zero-zero going through the whole game. But in the end it felt pretty good.”
Combined with his Game 5 overtime goal against Montreal, Horton has now scored three goals that will go down in Bruins history, never mind be looked upon as keys to this season. After the game, linemate Milan Lucic summed it up best when he said “maybe the missing link the last three years was Nathan Horton.”
Boston never advanced beyond the second round without him, so Lucic is about right.