THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Horton is making a habit of OT winners

By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / April 28, 2011

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Nathan Horton couldn’t remember what year it was, when asked if he’d ever scored a goal in overtime in the playoffs prior to joining the Bruins.

“Once before, with Oshawa,’’ Horton said, mentioning the Ontario Hockey League team he played two seasons for as a teenager. “It was Game 7, though.’’

He’s got plenty of new memories to replace that one — which came in 2003, for the record. On a slightly bigger stage, he’s now accomplished the feat twice in five days. Horton had so much fun ending Game 5 Saturday night in double overtime that he booked a repeat performance last night. The stakes were much higher this time, since any Game 7 means win or go home. Horton, evidently, was ready to pack his bags. Next stop: Philadelphia.

“I’m really enjoying it. I could get used to this,’’ Horton said, smiling minutes after his blast whizzed past Montreal goalie Carey Price at 5:43 of overtime, giving the Bruins a 4-3 win and sending the TD Garden crowd into pure delirium. “It’s pretty special again. It doesn’t get any better.’’

Horton’s only shot of the night was the only one that ultimately mattered. He took a pass from Milan Lucic near the top of the left circle and let fly, beating Price on the glove side. The goal capped a pressure-packed contest that saw the Bruins grab a 2-0 lead six minutes in, give up a tying goal with two minutes left, and leave Bruins Nation lamenting another possible Game 7 letdown.

Horton made sure it wouldn’t happen. At least not in this series.

“I remember Looch coming up with the puck and I just tried to get open, and I tried to put the puck toward the net,’’ Horton said. “Luckily it got deflected off someone and went straight in. That’s how I remember it.’’

The reaction is a little clearer, with the Bruins bench emptying and engulfing the 25-year-old in a massive pig-pile.

“I’ll jump on him all playoffs if he keeps scoring these OT [goals],’’ said Chris Kelly, whose third-period strike gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead and looked, for 10 minutes at least, that it might be the series-clincher.

For Horton, it made his long wait for NHL playoff action well worth it. He spent his first six seasons with the Florida Panthers, never making it to the postseason. After being acquired in a trade last June, he’s followed 26 regular-season goals with three in the playoffs. Two won games. Last night’s earned him a first — the team’s tattered jacket, given to the player of the game, which he proudly wore to the podium.

“You know, I’ve imagined getting to the playoffs for a long time,’’ said Horton, who did not win the jacket after Game 5, an honor that went to Tim Thomas. “It’s definitely better than I imagined. This has been a dream come true. For us to win in Game 7 is pretty special, but we still have a long way to go and a lot of work ahead of us.’’

Horton wasn’t here the last time the Bruins and Flyers met in the playoffs, a stomach-punch stretch in the Eastern Conference semifinals that saw the Bruins lose a 3-0 lead not only in the series but in Game 7 at home. He watched it unfold on television, though, and won’t put much stock in those games affecting these. New year. New team.

“That’s in the past now. Everyone knows in the playoffs it doesn’t matter how many games you’re ahead or how comfortable you feel,’’ Horton said. “It can all change at one moment.’’

Horton should know. In the past week, he’s done it twice.

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com.

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