Bruins hope LucicHorton breakup sparks team

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Bruins hope LucicHorton breakup sparks team

BOSTON -- Claude Julien now looks like something of a hockey prophet after openly wondering two weeks ago if he might just have to break up last years top scoring line for the Bruins. Offensive struggles can prompt bold changes, and the Bs are finally getting a little bold.

The line-change predictions came true in the third period of Bostons Tuesday night loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, and it now appears further changes will be in the offing in their next game.

The Bs coach, who gave the top trio ample time together to work things out, admitted he didnt know what might happen with changed forward combinations but the status quo wasnt getting it done among the 12 forwards.

The Bruins are dead last in the NHL with 1.67 goals per game after their first six games of the season, and its clear many of the name forwards are pressing too hard.

The Bruins havent had a first-period goal since the season-opening loss to the Flyers, and havent held a lead in a games two periods since their second game of the year against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

All of these trends dont bode well for the Stanley Cup champs, and many of the individual players are being pretty hard on themselves.

The way Im playing; the way were not scoring, both me personally and the team, said Nathan Horton. Im not playing the way I want to play. We just need to work harder. Everybody just needs to get back to playing the way they can, playing with more confidence and wanting to do things with the puck when they we have it.

So the Bs coach pushed Chris Kelly to top line center in a temporary move with Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin on either side of the defensive center, and Nathan Horton was slotted in on the second line right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

That leaves Rich Peverley as the third-line center, sharing reps with David Krejci, with Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Caron as their wingers alongside the speedy Peverley for Thursday nights game against the new-look Leafs.

"I wish I could stand here and pretend I'm a genius, but I don't know what I'm going to get," Julien said of the line alterations. "I just know what I was getting wasn't good enough."

The biggest development of the forward combination switcheroo was the separation of Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton as bookend power forward wingers after a largely unsuccessful six games.

The Bruins are 2-4 in their six games, last in the NHL in goal-scoring, and three points along with a minus-1 out of Horton and Lucic in 12 games. The struggles of Lucic and Horton might not be the biggest problem facing the Black and Gold in their first half-dozen games, but theyre clearly not part of the solution either.

For their part, both wingers expressed personal frustration at the slow starts to their seasons, and openly admitted their games havent yet reached anything approaching optimal levels. Lucic went one step further and said he wholeheartedly supported the line changes, and understood the back-to-basics mindset required to get him back on track.

In simple terms Lucic knows he must play the steaming-locomotive style that helped him earn his reputation as an intimidating player, and hes strayed away from that player as hes developed into a 30-goal scorer in the NHL.

Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take a step forward, and thats where I am personally at this point, said Lucic. Maybe Im trying to do too much and thinking about doing too much, and its causing me to do nothing. I need to step back and focus on playing that straight-line, strong-along-the-walls style and just simplify my game.

When Im pushing the puck up and chipping it in, thats when Im most successful. There have been spurts where Ive played well, but not enough of it. This year were a little bit late here and there, were not finding each other when were open and were not seeing each other as well. Thats why theres a need for a change. I support this decision for a change, and we just have to work our way out of this to find our game again.

Lucic actually had some very good chances in the three games leading up to the emotional Carolina loss, and fired off nine shots in those three games without getting anything to the back of the net. But Lucic was shut out in the shot department in the loss to the Hurricanes, and the Bs power forward is hoping that will change with some new faces sparking his game.

Weve been together for six games now and things havent been going as well and we know they should be going, said Lucic. We havent scored a first period goal in a while now, so its not to bad a thing to switch things up.

This kind of starts us off fresh here. Its not a bad thing. Its just a new look to get things going.

A fresh start is exactly what the Bruins need after six games, and it remains to be seen if the new look and newly adopted attitudes make a difference.

Bruins rebound from 3-0 deficit but wind up losing to Caps in overtime

Bruins rebound from 3-0 deficit but wind up losing to Caps in overtime

WASHINGTON -- The Capitals didn't exactly end their overtime victory with a raucous celebration.

No, instead Washington held a players-only meeting, still salty over blowing a three-goal lead.

Nicklas Backstrom scored 1:36 into overtime, helping the Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 to avert a disastrous defeat Wednesday night.

Justin Williams scored twice and Daniel Winnik also had a goal to put Washington ahead 3-0 about six minutes into the second period.

After Winnik's tally, Washington went over 26 minutes without a shot on goal. Boston dominated the final five minutes of the second period, when Dominic Moore and David Pastrnak beat goaltender Braden Holtby. Colin Miller's power-play score 8:19 into third tied it at 3-3.

Backstrom saved the day, but not the Capitals from feeling uneasy.

"In the second and third period they outplayed," Backstrom said. "We were lucky that we came up with two points. We're not satisfied at all. We're happy with the two points, but not the way we played."

The locker room remained closed for approximately 15 minutes after the win, Washington's second in a row after losing three straight.

"We had a little talking here," said T.J. Oshie, who returned to the lineup for the first time since injuring his shoulder on Nov. 18. "There are some things we've got to clean up. I think it's more of a mentality more than it is the systems or anything like that. ... Once we get a step up on someone, we have to get that mentality that we're going to finish them off."

Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists for the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin got his first point since Nov. 26.

Boston arrived in Washington 4-0-1 over its last five games with three wins in a row, including a 4-3 overtime triumph against Florida on Monday night. The Bruins outshot Washington 34-20.

"Hell of an effort. We got a big point for us. To comeback from 3-0 against Washington, it's not that easy," Pastrnak said. "Too bad we couldn't get the two points, but in this case the one point is huge for us."

Backstrom patiently waited on the right side before firing the winner past goaltender Tuukka Rask, who entered second in the league with a 1.68 goals-against average. Rask allowed three goals in his previous outing, too.

Williams had two goals over the first 24 games this season, but he matched that total less than eight minutes in against the Bruins. He redirected Kuznetsov's lofted centering pass past Rask for a 1-0 lead just 23 seconds into the first period.

"To be honest it's nice to see the puck go in the net," Williams said. "I've been pressing and working hard. Hopefully this can springboard me to some more production."

Matt Niskanen left with an upper-body injury and did not return. With the Caps down a defenseman, Boston outshot Washington 11-2 in the second period.

"In the second period, we just sort of sat back," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "It's hard to protect leads in the league."

The Capitals' second goal also occurred in front of the net. Williams emerged from a scramble with a shot that slithered under Rask.

NOTES: With his 673rd career win, Trotz passed Mike Keenan (672) for eighth place on the NHL's career wins list. ... Williams' first goal was the fastest for Washington since 2012. ... Boston assigned F Noel Acciari to the Providence Bruins two days after the 24-year forward returned to practice. Acciari injured his right leg on Nov. 7. ... Holtby improved to 10-2 career against the Bruins. His first career win came in relief against Boston in November 2010. ... The three-game season series resumes Feb. 1 in Washington.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Colorado on Thursday night.

Capitals: Play at Buffalo on Friday night.