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Trying to get pointed in right direction

Struggling Horton dropped to 3d line

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / December 21, 2010

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At the start of the season, Bruins fans were excited about the possibilities that Nathan Horton would bring. The bruising winger had plenty of size, grit, and offensive touch, and he was eager to start fresh after leaving Florida via trade last June.

Horton got off to a strong beginning. In the first 17 contests, he averaged slightly more than a point per game with eight goals and 10 assists. However, in the last 15, he has dropped off dramatically with just three goals and two assists. In his last four outings, he has no points.

Last night, in a 3-0 loss to Anaheim at TD Garden, Horton had three shots and played 19 shifts over 17 minutes 45 seconds of ice time but like the rest of his teammates, he had nothing to show for it.

At the beginning of the game, he was on the top line playing right wing with center David Krejci and left wing Milan Lucic. But later on, coach Claude Julien dropped Horton down to the third line with center Marc Savard and left wing Michael Ryder.

Horton said it was a frustrating evening for everyone.

“It’s not a lot of fun when you’re [struggling],’’ he said. “It’s tough. I don’t think we’re all working together and on the same page at points, and obviously it shows.’’

Boston outshot Anaheim, 45-25, and it was a season-high number of bids for the home team. What was missing were the second and third chances. Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller saw all the first opportunities and rarely gave up a rebound. His defense didn’t leave much in the way of loose pucks.

“I think the third [period], all the lines played pretty well,’’ said Horton. “We had a lot of chances and we could’ve scored and we didn’t. We definitely played better in the third than in the first and second.’’

The Bruins got 36 of their shots over the final 40 minutes and the chances in the final period were definitely higher quality. By then, though, they had dug themselves too deep a hole.

“We weren’t very good the first two periods,’’ said Horton. “We were just trying to get something going. I don’t know if it was stale, but things weren’t going good. But in the third, it was a little better.’’

Horton said he felt as though there were opportunities but whenever the Bruins were able to generate some, Hiller shut them down.

“We did have some chances but we just didn’t score at the right time,’’ he said. “It was just a tough game for the first and second periods.’’

The Bruins are tired of not knowing what they are going to get from night to night, period to period, and even shift to shift.

“It’s even five or 10 minutes here, five or 10 minutes there,’’ said Horton. “It’s definitely not how you win hockey games.’’

When asked if he felt as if he was struggling, Horton said, “Obviously there are nights when it doesn’t come your way. You just have to keep battling through and hopefully, when you get the chance, you score.

“Tonight, it didn’t happen.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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