Kesler still had a reason to celebrate, though, as the Anaheim Ducks edged his former Vancouver Canucks squad 4-3 in a shootout on Thursday.
The loss, which prevented the Canucks from overtaking the Western Conference-leading Ducks, made rookie Horvat's first NHL goal and point bittersweet.
"You definitely want to win when you score your first NHL goal or you get your first point," he said. "But I thought we battled hard tonight."
Corey Perry and Jakob Silfverberg scored in the shootout as the Ducks prevailed after squandering an early two-goal lead. Radim Vrbata and Nick Bonino failed on their shootout attempts for Vancouver, while Kesler missed on Anaheim's second chance.
Kesler received little love in his first game in Vancouver since being traded to the Ducks in the summer. Fans showed no reaction at the start of the game as he was pictured on the scoreboard screen with the caption "Welcome back Ryan." He was booed in the second period, overtime and the shootout.
"Let's just say I'm glad it's over with," he said. "Get back to the sunshine and enjoy it. Get back home."
Kesler called his return to Rogers Arena, after giving his "heart and soul" to the Canucks for 10 seasons, a "weird" experience.
"Seeing old teammates and seeing old friends, just coming back to this city was emotionally draining," he said.
Horvat and Canucks fans also felt a gamut of emotions as the Ducks (12-4-5) earned their first win in five games while the Canucks lost for the second time in three contests. Anaheim avenged a Nov. 9 home shootout loss to Vancouver.
"It wasn't perfect but we found a way to win," said Perry. "That's what we have been trying to do."
Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Getzlaf, and Matt Beleskey had the regulation-time goals for the Ducks as Anaheim led 2-0 after 20 minutes, but trailed 3-2 after the second.
Jannik Hansen and Vrbata scored Vancouver's other goals - only 30 seconds apart in the second period.
The Canucks (13-6-1) lost their first one-goal game this season, becoming the last team in the NHL to do so.
"I thought we had a good first period," said Canucks coach Willie Desjardins, pleased with his club's effort in the second of back-to-back games. "They scored on their first shift, so it's hard to say where we were at on that. But I thought the rest of the first period we played pretty well. They made a great play for their second goal."
The Canucks got off to a rough start as a wide-open Cogliano tucked in a loose puck, after it caromed off skates, only 37 seconds into the game. It was Anaheim's first shot. Vancouver then committed a series of defensive miscues and, with the game barely a minute and a half old, lost defenceman Dan Hamhuis to a leg injury after he clipped skates with teammate Daniel Sedin. Desjardins said he expects Hamhuis to be out for "a little bit."
Getzlaf put the Ducks ahead 2-0 at 13:10 of the first as he roofed a backhand following a give-and-go with Patrick Maroon.
As the first-period horn sounded, Kesler scuffled with Canucks winger Derek Dorsett and Horvat. The two Canucks then teamed up offensively at 3:08 of the second period, reducing Vancouver's deficit, and helping to spur a comeback.
Acting as the trailer, Horvat scored on a one-timer from the slot off Dorsett's nifty backhand pass.
"It was awesome," he said. "It's definitely something I'll never forget. (Dorsett) and (Zack Kassian) made a great play to get (the puck) over to me. I blacked out a little but after that, but I was definitely happy."
The 19-year-old Rodney, Ont., native played his seventh game of the season and can suit up in two more before the Canucks must activate his contract or return him to junior.
"I played him against Kesler quite a bit of the night and I wasn't worried," said Desjardins. "He won some big draws in his own zone. He's made a pretty good impact."
Notes: The Canucks outshot the Ducks 28-26, but Anaheim held a 5-1 edge in overtime. … Canucks winger Alex Burrows missed the game due to an undisclosed injury. Desjardins said he probably could have played the club decided "to be smart." … Earlier Thursday, the Ducks traded defenceman Bryan Allen, a former Canuck, to Montreal for winger Rene Bourque. … The Canucks also made a trade, completing a swap of centres as minor-leaguer Kellan Lain went to Edmonton in exchange for Will Acton. … Ducks defenceman Hampus Lindholm, 20, is one game away from 100 for his NHL career.