In a perfect storm Claude Julien had also called out Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and David Krejci as a line while needing more production and emotion out of the powerful trio.
The Saturday matinee against the Caps turned into the perfect storm for everything Boston needed as the Krejci line accounted for three goals in a bloody 4-1 win at TD Garden that served as a reminder the Bruins are still the baddest team in the league.
Each of Boston’s first two goals arrived with Lucic fore-checking and simply taking pucks away from Washington players. That hustle ended as goals for Nathan Horton and David Krejci, and is something that’s been sorely missed by the B’s over the last month.
The line combined for nine points and a plus-5 in the victory after managing only one combined goal in the first eight games during the month of March.
Marcus Johansson got a lucky goal in the second period when a David Krejci clearing attempt went off Johnny Boychuk’s skate and into the open net.
But the Bruins stormed right back with Andrew Ference’s first goal of the season off a nice drop pass from Horton, and the Bruins added to it with a Rich Peverley power play strike in the third period.
There was also plenty of fighting: Brad Marchand and Mike Ribeiro tangled in the Caps forward’s first fight at the pro hockey level, Horton was bloodied by Matt Hendricks at the end of the second period and McQuaid finally cornered Hendricks in the final stanza for a beating that was a long time coming.
GOLD STAR: Nathan Horton enjoyed his best game of the season, and arguably his best game since suffering a pair of concussions. Horton opened with the game’s first goal and finished with three points, a plus-2 and his first career Gordie Howe hat trick during the regular season. The sight of a fired up Horton leaking blood after slamming Matt Hendricks to the ice – and all of this after his had already contributed three goals in the game – was a sign that the Bruins power forward is finally back. And he’s back just in time for the stretch drive and the playoffs.
BLACK EYE: Matt Hendricks was trying to do something, anything, to spark his downtrodden Capitals team, but it backfired on him badly. Hendricks wouldn’t fight with Adam McQuaid or Nathan Horton earlier in the game, and then he suddenly decided to charge the B’s right winger and start throwing punches at the end of the second. That allowed Hendricks to land a few blows on Horton, and it also caused both Adam McQuaid and Shawn Thornton to come looking for him in the third period. They had him trapped like a rat against the boards after chasing him around and challenging him. Finally he dropped them with McQuaid and was dumped to the ice after taking a few rights, and then chirped with a Bruins fan in the stands on his way down the runway with what appeared to be an injured hand. On top of that he was a minus-2 in the game, and the Capitals PP did nothing with the two minute man advantage his antics earned for Washington.
TURNING POINT: From the first very shift Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic took the ice on Saturday afternoon it was pretty clear they meant business, and that was a tone-setter for the Bruins. Lucic separated Washington players from the puck to create each of the first two goals scored by the Bruins, and Horton was playing with the intensity of a rabid dog foaming at the mouth every time he was challenged. That’s the kind of edge, intimidating and production the Bruins’ top line can bring when they’re on their game, and they were absolutely on top of things Saturday afternoon. Washington observed that early on and knew it was going to be a long game.
HONORABLE MENTION: Milan Lucic finished with a career-high three assists, created each of the first two goals by moving his feet and creating fore-check pressure on Washington puck carriers and showed why he is so valuable to that line. The mere threat of his punishing hits creates turnovers and chaos in the opponent’s defensive zone, and did just that on Saturday. He also fired three shots on net while elevating his overall involvement at the offensive end of the ice, and that’s an important factor for a line that’s been too stagnant during the last month. Lucic is still looking for his first goal of the month, but he’s well on his way at this point.
BY THE NUMBERS: 5-0-0 – the Bruins are undefeated in afternoon games this season after struggling in this category a few years. Makes sense that a once-young Bruins core has found ways to cope with changes in their routine – like afternoon tilts as opposed to the 7 pm norm -- as they’ve gained experience as players.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “They were unbelievable tonight. I think everybody on that line was going, you could see it right from the drop of the puck. Well deserved the amount of points [Horton] got tonight while obviously sticking up for himself and doing a good job doing that too.” –Shawn Thornton, admiring the work done by David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic in a complete demolition of the Washington Capitals.