MONTREAL -- Milan Lucic is at his best when he’s a tone-setting force for the Boston Bruins with his size, strength and intimidating physicality, and he was dialed in against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.
The B’s power forward made a powerful statement on his first shift when he crushed Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin with a thumping hit behind the Canadiens net as the blueliner went back to retrieve a puck. It was one of Lucic’s team-high five registered hits in Boston’s 4-1 win over the Canadiens, and it let Montreal know it was going to be a long, punishing night against a Black and Gold team determined to win.
To the uninformed bystander it might have looked like Lucic was specifically targeting Emelin for hard hits, but the left winger said it was just a natural byproduct of the game between the Original Six foes.
“It’s just two physical guys, he’s on the right D and I’m on the left wing. We just naturally found each other on the ice,” said Lucic. “You’ve got to give him credit. He’s a big, strong guy that’s not afraid to get himself physically engaged in the game, and he’s not afraid to get into those battles.”
Lucic also scored a pivotal goal in the game adding insult to injury. The Canadiens top line featuring Thomas Vanek and Tomas Plekanec had Boston’s fourth line and the Johnny Boychuk/Matt Bartkowski pairing hemmed into the D-zone, and looked like they were going to close it to a one-goal game.
But instead the fourth line managed to clear the puck, and Lucic snapped off a blistering shot at the other end of the ice to build things up to a 3-0 lead at the end of the second period. The score gave Lucic his 20th goal of the season, the third 20 goal season of his NHL career to go along with the bone-crunching hits that truly set the tone for Boston’s win over Montreal.