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Saturday, March 16, 2013
Horton's G. Howe hat trick lifts B's

By Joe McDonald
ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Beginning in the 2010-11 Stanley Cup season for the Boston Bruins, defenseman Andrew Ference created a postgame tradition by giving a teammate a lucky item after a victory.

The vintage Bruins jacket, bought on eBay by Ference, became legendary that season, a staple of the team's championship. It was retired and given to then-veteran Mark Recchi, who also retired. Recchi had it framed and now it hangs in the Bruins' locker room.

During the 2011-12 season, it was a massive padlock chain, personally welded by Ference, that was handed out. The last Bruins player to earn it was forward Tyler Seguin, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 6 in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals last spring.

Until Saturday, there was no evidence of any sort of special item after Bruins wins.

Nathan Horton and Dennis Seidenberg
Nathan Horton (left, celebrating with Dennis Seidenberg) led a first-line resurgence for the Bruins.

So, it was only fitting that Bruins forward Nathan Horton was wearing a bright red T-shirt with a huge picture of a rooster's head on it after Boston's 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals Saturday at TD Garden.

"It means good luck," explained Horton.

Horton had more than luck on his side on Saturday. He provided a Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal, two assists and a fight and served as an inspiration for his teammates. It was his first three-point game since Jan. 5, 2012, in a 9-0 win over the Calgary Flames at the Garden.

"He was awesome," said Bruins forward Shawn Thornton. "He was fired up and definitely had some emotion today. A lot of the guys fed off of him. People talk about him a lot, how great of a team guy he is and all that stuff, and today he had a good day, for sure."

Until Saturday, Horton seemed invisible on the ice of late.

The last time he scored was on Feb. 28 against the Ottawa Senators. Since then, he had provided only two assists. On Saturday, he did it all.

"When you're not playing good, you want to be better and when you come to the game you've got to turn it on," Horton said. "We have to play like that every night."

Bruins coach Claude Julien has been publicly challenging the team's top line of late, saying it needed to be better in order for Boston to have consistent success. Well, Horton wasn't a one-man show on Saturday.

The Bruins' top line had been struggling, and that frustration was evident during the team's practice on Friday at Ristuccia Arena. Milan Lucic smashed his stick against the glass and threw another piece of lumber into the stands at the team's practice facility.

That emotion carried over into Saturday's game.

Along with Horton's three points, linemate David Krejci scored a goal and added two assists, while Lucic provided a career-best three assists.

"They showed exactly what we need to see from them on a more consistent basis," Julien said. "They were skating the north-south type of game, they were forechecking, being physical. Because of that they weren't turning pucks over, and not only that, they were strong on the puck and they made their first chances count."

The rest of the team was also appreciative of the trio's effort.

"They were unbelievable tonight," Thornton said. "Everybody on that line was going, and you could see it right from the drop of the puck. It was well-deserved, the amount of points they got tonight."

Horton even dropped the gloves in the closing seconds of the second period with the Capitals' Matt Hendricks. In real time, it appeared the Washington forward jumped Horton off the faceoff, but that wasn't entirely the case.

After the game, Horton admitted he called for Hendricks three times to drop the gloves to no avail. When the Washington forward finally decided to engage, Horton was caught by surprise and that's why he was so livid after the fight.

In the third period, Thornton tried to bait Hendricks to fight, but he wouldn't tussle with Boston's tough guy. Instead, Hendricks jumped Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid, who was standing nearby. While McQuaid and Hendricks were both given 5 minutes for fighting, Thornton was given 2 for unsportsmanlike conduct, which had to be a case of the name on the back of the sweater.

"I won't comment," Thornton said. "I think everybody saw it and that's enough."

McQuaid saw Hendricks wanted no part of Thornton, so the Bruins blueliner offered his invitation.

"I let him know I was there, too," McQuaid said. "I guess he had his pick."

Even though there were a total of three fights in the game -- the Bruins' Brad Marchand and the Capitals' Mike Ribeiro went toe-to-toe at 19:41 of the second period -- Boston played its style of game and it resulted in a victory.

Julien has been preaching about the Bruins' lack of a full 60-minute effort, and they finally responded on Saturday.

When the Bruins are at their best, Julien has the ability to roll out all four lines against an opponent. That was evident during the team's Stanley Cup run in 2011. Even though that hasn't been the case consistently this season, a game like Saturday's win over the Capitals sure helps.

The Bruins will be tested this week as they head out on the road to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET), at Winnipeg on Tuesday (8 p.m.), at Ottawa on Thursday (7 p.m.) and at Toronto on Saturday (7 p.m.).

After Saturday's win against Washington, and before their trip to Pittsburgh, Horton stood in the Bruins' locker room, wearing the red rooster shirt. Instead of calling Horton by his usual nickname -- "Horty" -- his teammates were calling him "Gordie" for his goal, two assists and fight.

"It was more than a Gordie," Thornton said. "So it was a Nathan Horton hat trick, I guess. It's definitely not a Shawn Thornton hat trick."