Two years ago, when the Bruins made their Stanley Cup run, Nathan Horton was the late-game hero. In overtime of Game 7 in the first round, Horton scored the winning goal to propel the Bruins over the Canadiens. In Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final against Tampa Bay, Horton scored the night’s only goal at 12:27 of the third period.
This year, Horton has scored two of his three goals in the third period. The Bruins (5-0-1) have yet to lose in regulation. If Horton hadn’t netted those third-period goals, the Bruins might be carrying two regulation losses.
“You’re not always going to be at your best, but you pull through,” Horton said after Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout win over New Jersey. “You’re down a goal, you’re down two goals, it doesn’t matter. You just work hard and fight back.
“That’s the kind of team we are and the kind of guys we are on this team. We all know we can come back when we’re down. I think that’s what makes us so good.”
Horton, who was out for nearly a full calendar year because of a concussion and the lockout, has answered all of his employer’s questions. Through six games, Horton, Milan Lucic, and David Krejci have been the team’s most consistent line. Horton has three goals and two assists. Lucic has a 2-2—4 line along with two fights. Krejci, between the two towers, has been the playmaker (one goal, five assists).
“You want to be able to rely on those guys,” coach Claude Julien said. “We have, and they’ve certainly given us exactly what we need right now.”
Horton’s game-tying goal against the Devils was a product of the line’s best asset: speed. Krejci started the rush in the defensive zone. As he hit the defensive blue line, Lucic and Horton hit full stride as his wingmen. By the time Krejci had taken a return pass from Lucic, Horton was flying down the right wing. With a quick snap, Horton flipped a shot past Johan Hedberg with 4:05 remaining in regulation.
On Jan. 23, Horton’s snap shot helped the Bruins scratch out a point against the Rangers. The Bruins were down, 3-2, in the third period at Madison Square Garden. But Horton helped the Bruins take the game into overtime. After taking a pass from Gregory Campbell, Horton flung a shot through a Carl Hagelin screen that Henrik Lundqvist couldn’t track.
“He’s a machine,” Julien said. “It doesn’t seem like he’s skipped a beat. He’s right back in great form. We’re feeding off him, no doubt.”
Johnson looks good
Adam McQuaid will be available to play against Buffalo Thursday. He didn’t play Monday against Carolina because he was attending his grandmother’s funeral, and he was a healthy scratch Tuesday. It’s not guaranteed that McQuaid will return against the Sabres, given the consistent performances that Aaron Johnson has delivered on the No. 3 defense pairing. Johnson had two shots and three hits in 16:13 of ice time against the Devils. “The thing we liked about him is that he’s got good vision,” Julien said of the ex-Blue Jacket. “He sees the play well. He’s a guy that’s had decent points for a guy that’s been in and out of the lineup.”
Sabres get tough
The Bruins get their first look at the pumped-up Sabres, who added sandpaper and muscle during the offseason in Steve Ott and John Scott. Ott, who has a history of run-ins with the Bruins from his Dallas days, has one goal, one assist, and 13 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-8-inch Scott will be looking to take either Zdeno Chara or Milan Lucic to the box via a scrap. Scott has recorded one bout this season. On Jan. 21, ex-Bruin Colton Orr staggered Scott with a body shot . . . Dennis Seidenberg played arguably his best game of the season against New Jersey. It was his third game back after missing two with a lower-body injury. Seidenberg had two shots and five hits in 23:03. He started the third-period breakout that led to Horton’s tying goal . . . TD Garden security has not been able to identify the person who threw an object onto the ice during Tuesday’s shootout.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.