BOSTON – Nathan Horton certainly has the demeanor of a hero.
Talk to his teammates and the scouting report is always the same -- here's a guy that loves his job and always has a smile.
But, it's hard to imagine that smile being any bigger than the one he was sporting Wednesday night, just minutes after his seeing-eye shot in the sixth minute of overtime in Game 7 against Montreal eluded goalie Carey Price and gave the Bruins the series victory in the most dramatic fashion possible.
"It's pretty hard to not be happy after a goal like that," Boston forward Patrice Bergeron said. "But he's always smiling, always happy to be here; so we're just happy to have him around."
Happy to have him around? The Bruins are ecstatic about his presence in the lineup in this postseason.
He was the game-breaker in the first round against Montreal. He scored three goals -- tied with Chris Kelly for the team lead – and two of them were OT game-winners.
"I said last time, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy," said Boston goalie Tim Thomas, another game-breaker in this series. "But he's making a name for himself as a big-game player and that's great to see. For a guy who has never had the opportunity to play in the playoffs, he's making a reputation. We wouldn't have won this series without him."
Horton was brought in from Florida during the off season as part of Boston management's plan to re-make the Bruins after last season's second-round collapse against Philadelphia. GM Peter Chiarelli and team president Cam Neely pulled the trigger on a deal that sent defenseman Dennis Wideman and first- and third-round picks to Florida for Horton and Gregory Campbell.
"All year, I've liked this trade for us; what Horton brings to the team and also what Campbell has brought to the team," Neely said Wednesday night. "Both these guys are a big part of our club."
Horton, who scored 26 goals in the regular season, opened his goal ledger in Game 3, Boston's first win in the series. Then, he scored the double-OT winner in Game 5 here to give Boston its first lead in the series. Yet, neither goal was bigger than Wednesday night's, which ended a stretch of four straight Game 7 losses and gave the organization its first Game 7 win since 1994.
It hasn't taken Horton long to find the playoffs to his liking in his first taste of the postseason.
"I'm really enjoying it," Horton said. "Every day is exciting. Every day is a new day, but it feels good, definitely, to get used to this. Continue winning; that's what it's all about."
Horton, who did not see the playoffs once during the first six years of his career while with the Panthers, has certainly taken to the postseason well.
"I guess he was saving (the playoff goals) for so long, now he's getting those game-winners," Bergeron said. "I'm so happy for him. He deserves it, but at the same time, that's him. He's a clutch player, he's a great player and I'm just happy to have him on our side."