CHICAGO — Following the morning skate, Nathan Horton confirmed he’d be in the lineup for Game 2 Saturday night.
“Everything’s good,” Horton said before Boston’s 2-1 overtime win. “I’m back and ready to go.”
There was doubt about Horton’s availability. Horton suffered an upper-body injury in the first overtime of Game 1 after he shoved Niklas Hjalmarsson. Horton likely aggravated the injury he sustained during an April 20 fight with Pittsburgh’s Jarome Iginla that sidelined him for five games.
Horton never returned following his overtime exit, but he practiced Friday without limitations. On Saturday morning, Horton skated alongside usual linemates Milan Lucic and David Krejci.
“No fear at all,” Horton said of any concerns he’d miss Game 2. “I knew I was going to play. I feel good. I’m ready.”
Horton had one shot and zero hits in 21:29 of ice time. The first line, which punched in two goals in Game 1, was kept off the scoresheet in Game 2.
On Friday, the Bruins exercised their backup plan, with Tyler Seguin taking several shifts with Lucic and Krejci. But the Bruins did not have to turn to Plan B for Game 2.
“He feels really good,” coach Claude Julien said. “He looked really good out there the last two days. There’s absolutely no reason at all why he shouldn’t play.”
Horton (7-11—18) entered the game as the NHL’s No. 2 playoff scorer behind Krejci (9-14—23). Horton set up Lucic for one of the left wing’s two goals in Game 1.
Horton nearly scored in the first overtime. He was in position to swat home the rebound of a Krejci shot, but couldn’t elevate the puck over Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford. Following his exit, Horton could only watch his teammates as they struggled through two more overtimes.
“It was tough,” Horton said. “It’s a long game. We didn’t come out on the right end of it. We’ve got to turn that around.”
The Blackhawks were aiming to tighten up their defensive play against the No. 1 line, with or without Horton. Their second pairing of Johnny Oduya and Hjalmarsson was on the ice for both of Lucic’s goals.
Prior to the first goal, Hjalmarsson tried to deliver a heavy hit on Krejci. The center rolled off to find Horton in front. At the same time, Oduya pursued Krejci behind the net, leaving Horton and Lucic open in front.
On the second goal, Hjalmarsson tried to challenge Lucic for the puck at the blue line. Lucic bulled past Hjalmarsson, dished to Krejci, then slammed home his center’s return pass.
“They have pretty much everything on their line,” Oduya said. “They’ve got speed, grit. They’ve got scoring, passing. They’re very patient. They find each other. They have that little extra chemistry that some guys have. Regardless of if [Horton] plays or not, whoever they put in there is still going to be a good player. We’ve got to be at our best and try to take away as much ice and time from them as possible.”
The Blackhawks did not change their defensive matchups in Game 2. Oduya and Hjalmarsson were matched against Krejci’s line. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook took most of their shifts against the No. 2 line.
“I go out when I’m told,” Keith said. “They were impressive. It’s a line we definitely have to be aware of when they’re out there.”
Patrick Kane is arguably Chicago’s most flammable offensive force. He scored a hat trick to close out Los Angeles in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
But the Bruins didn’t allow Kane to land on the Game 1 scoresheet. He had seven shots in 37:49 of ice time. The Bruins matched Patrice Bergeron’s line, along with their second defensive pairing of Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk, against Kane.
Kane was on the ice for Lucic’s second goal. Lucic won a puck battle against Kane in the neutral zone to start the rush.
“Especially in a series like this, you don’t want to go through any setbacks,” Kane said. “I had some chances and I had the puck a lot. But from what I’ve seen over video, I can play better.”
Kane assisted on Patrick Sharp’s first-period goal to record his first point of the series. But Kane was otherwise quiet. Kane had two shots in 19:01 of ice time.
Bergeron edged out
Jonathan Toews, the Selke Trophy winner as the league’s best defensive forward, had fewer first-place votes than Bergeron. Bergeron claimed 78 first-place votes to Toews’s 75. But Toews’s advantage in second- and fourth-place votes helped give him the nod. “He had one of those years that the numbers jumped off the charts,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville of his captain. “Playing against top lines shift in, shift out, that says a lot. I think his awareness on both sides of the puck makes him the type of player he is. It really was well-earned and well-deserved.” . . . The Bruins hit two posts. Brad Marchand hit the post in the second period. Jaromir Jagr hit iron in overtime . . . Lucic led all players with 10 hits. The Bruins were committed to finishing their checks, which may have had an effect later in the game. The Blackhawks weren’t as crisp in retrieving pucks in their end . . . Shawn Thornton had just 4:36 of ice time . . . Torey Krug remained in the Game 2 lineup on the third defensive duo alongside Adam McQuaid. Krug committed a turnover in Game 1 that led to Dave Bolland’s third-period goal. Krug had two shots in 18:02 of ice time . . . Jagr was the only Bruin not to participate in the morning skate. He also sat out one skate in each of the two previous rounds.