BOSTON (CBS) – Just like you don’t want to get Dr. Bruce Banner angry and have to deal with The Incredible Hulk, opposing NHL teams never want to tangle with the Bruins when Milan Lucic is in desperation mode.
Even Lucic’s Boston teammates know that, and they witnessed firsthand the results of Lucic pulling out all the stops Saturday during a 4-3 shootout win over Nashville at the TD Garden.
“When he plays like that, he’s obviously hard to defend,” said Bruins center Patrice Bergeron of Lucic, whose tying goal was just one of his many contributions during the crucial victory. “And he’s so big, and when they’re a team that plays man on man like that, it’s tough for the defender to stay on him, he’s so strong. So I thought he made some great plays just to get it to the net and drive and use his speed and his body and he had a great game.”
Lucic’s biggest plays came when the Bruins needed him most. With Boston down, 3-2, in the third period, he drew a tripping penalty on Predators forward Sergei Kostitsyn with 2:18 remaining. And then, with just 1:07 left on the clock and goaltender Tim Thomas on the bench for an extra attacker, Lucic won a race to a loose puck and scored the game-tying 6-on-4 goal. Rich Peverley had just shot the puck in wide and Lucic grabbed the rebounding puck for a backhander that beat goaltender Pekka Rinne to the top shelf.
Lucic finished the day with seven shots on goal and was all over the ice all afternoon. But he was quick to share credit for the win.
“I talked about it yesterday … you just can’t depend on one line going and getting all the goals, you have to get it by committee. I think we had all 20 guys definitely going here tonight,” said Lucic.
Sure, Daniel Paille and Patrice Bergeron scored big goals in regulation, and Bergeron and Tyler Seguin followed with the clinchers in the shootout. But Lucic was the main orchestrator in a victory Boston desperately needed after a 6-0 embarrassment in Buffalo Wednesday.
Read: Game Recap
Boston spent the two days after that loss practicing at a high pace in search of the work ethic that typically makes them successful. Few Bruins personify how important work ethic is more than Lucic, whose battled his way to the top of Boston’s depth chart among forwards over the course of four-plus seasons and has now reached 20 goals for the second straight season.
Last year, he set a career high with 30 scores.
“You know definitely when you have a season like I did last year, you kind of set a bar for yourself and you want to keep that consistency in your game,” he said. “I’m still young so you want to try to get better every year so it’s been great I’ve been able to get to that 20-goal mark two straight years. There’s 29 games left and hopefully I can get to the 30 mark again.”
More importantly, Lucic has found a way to emerge as a sniper while maintaining his physicality. With his 20th goal of the season, he became the first NHL player this season to reach that amount of goals and career more than 100 penalty minutes on his ledger. Last season, he finished with 121 PIM.
The Bruins need every aspect of Lucic’s game to be clicking at a high level if they’re going to get where they want to go, and the win over the Predators might be the start of him rolling all the way to the playoffs.