November 8, 2011

After breakout game, Horton hopes tough times are behind him

Nathan Horton buries a puck past Al Montoya during the third period of the Bruins' 6-2 win over the Isles. (Getty)

BOSTON -- Less than a week ago, a downtrodden Nathan Horton was a man looking for answers. After confessing he didn’t feel like himself on the ice following a decidedly slow start to the season, many wondered when the Bruins’ playoff hero would return to form.

The mystery was solved on Monday night at TD Garden.

The Horton of old returned in a 6-2 victories over the Isles, as the 6-foot-2 winger drove hard to the net, redeveloped chemistry with linemates Milan Lucic and David Krejci, and chipped in two goals and an assist to help Boston earn their third-straight victory.

Asked if his performance was a relief, as he put a five-game goal drought to bed, Horton affirmed with his infamous grin.

“Yeah it definitely does. It definitely makes you stronger,” he said. “The tough times are not easy, but tonight I felt better. It makes you feel better getting points and feeling good out there. I still want work on my game and keep getting better and do anything I can to help my team.”

Left doubting his abilities just days ago, Horton’s performance was certainly an encouraging sign that – at long last – the string of bad bounces and near-misses that plagued him early on may be in the rearview mirror once and for all.

“Probably, but I’m not thinking like that. I just want to get the opportunities,” he said. “When I’m getting opportunities, some of them are going to go in and that’s being in the right spot at the right time and working to get there—that’s what I’m trying to do now.”

For Horton, the right spot was on the Islanders’ doorstep on Monday, as each of his goals came from close range.

“Sometimes you’re going to the net and it doesn’t go your way,” the 26-year-old forward said. “It definitely went my way tonight and when you’re going to be there, you’re working hard to get there every game. They’re not always going to come there, but they will eventually. It’s just getting to the net and finding the rebounds and banging away.”

Horton wasn’t the only one to capitalize in that particular spot, either. No. 18 made a beautiful feed to Lucic on Boston’s fourth goal of the night, as his hulking linemate merely had to tap the puck in at the top of the crease.

In fact, it was a good night all around for the Bruins’ top trio of forwards, as they racked up eight points and appeared to be clicking in a fashion akin to the 2010-11 season and their brilliant Cup run.

“You do have time off—things change. I know it was a short period of time, it was a short summer,” said Horton. “Obviously things haven’t gone our way, my way, everybody’s way the first few games, but now we’re back together as a team. We’re playing together as a team and that’s what’s happening.”

But on Monday night, perhaps for the first time this season, everything did go Horton and his linemates’ way. And while he knows he can’t expect to produce at such a level every night, things appear to be getting back on track for No. 18 in Black and Gold.

“I think that’s how we’re expected to play and that’s how we want to play,” Horton said. “I think when we are playing like that it definitely makes it a lot more fun and we get a lot of chances to help our team.”