After waiting six seasons for his first NHL playoff experience, Nathan Horton could've handled his struggles early in the Bruins' Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Montreal one of two ways — start pressing or relax.

Horton, a 26-goal scorer in the regular season, had been virtually nonexistent through the first two games of the series, as the Bruins scored just once and lost both at home. In Game 2, Horton even showed some outward signs of frustration by taking a questionable roughing penalty and later slamming his stick near the bench.

But in Game 3 Monday night in Montreal, he went the relaxation route and it paid off with his first playoff goal.

"You kind of think what to expect [in the playoffs]. But it's a lot different when you get there," Horton said yesterday as he left the USA Rink at the Lake Placid Olympic Center during a day off the ice for the Bruins regulars. "It's a lot tougher game, that's for sure. I think the big thing is trying to relax and play your game and not think too much."

Horton's goal helped the Bruins get back in the series with a 4-2 win, with Game 4 scheduled for tomorrow. On the crucial play, he displayed the poise of a player who wasn't playing in just his third playoff game and his first postseason contest in the electric atmosphere of Montreal's Bell Centre when he doubled the Bruins' lead to 2-0 late in the first period.

After Zdeno Chara's shot went wide and deflected off the end wall, Horton was first on the puck and he saw an opening between goaltender Carey Price and the net that he thought he could slip the puck through.

"So I just tried to get it in behind him and it kind of hit him and it trickled in," Horton said. "I wasn't sure it was in, but (Patrice Bergeron) said it was in. So ..."

So the Bruins were on their way to victory in a must-win game, and their first line of Horton, David Krejci (who scored the B's first goal) and Milan Lucic was finally alive. Lucic, a playoff participant in all four of his NHL seasons, has seen improvement in his linemate's approach to the second season.