It wasn’t exactly a couple of scorched one-timers, but it all felt the same when Milan Lucic was left looking at his own two goal performance after Saturday night’s 3-2 win over Columbus.
The Bruins power forward notched the eventual game-winner in the first period when he tipped a Torey Krug point shot past Curtis McElhinney, his first power play goal in nearly two years after he was shut out on special teams last season. Then Lucic added an insurance score for Boston when his shot from the high slot ricocheted off Jack Johnson’s skate and bounced high over McElhinney into the back of the net.
Jarome Iginla took a late baseball swing at the puck before it crossed the goal line, and Lucic would have been in line for a Gordie Howe hat trick if the goal went to the right winger on his line. Instead Lucic was credited with the goal, and he was left with a perfect one game example of the strength and scoring that he brings to the table.
“Two goals without getting a real direct shot at the net so, just one I think they tipped it and it went off me and in. Then the second they tipped it again, it went up and over everyone and into the back of the net,” said Lucic. “Sometimes they go in like that, and fortunately I had some puck luck here tonight.
“It would have been nice to have gotten the Gordie [Howe hat trick] especially after Zee [Zdeno Chara] got it yesterday, but you’re not going to complain with the goal over an assist. It was just one of those nights where the puck luck was on my side.”
The two goals rank Lucic among the NHL’s top 25 scorers with 11 goals on the season, and ended a recent string of frustration for the first time this season. Claude Julien said he’d had a chat with No. 17 over the last couple of days about relaxing ever so much in the offensive end, and that produced major dividends.
Lucic had only two assists in the previous six games heading into Saturday night, but there were signs of his impending breakout in the Thanksgiving Showdown win over the Rangers.
“I told him [yesterday] was skating extremely well and he was doing the right things. I think the one thing I thought is that he was maybe gripping his stick a little bit tight there in certain areas. He just to go out there and play,” said Julien. “I say that to a lot of players when I feel that they’re a little tight – ‘Just go out there and play. Relax and play.’
“Tonight he was determined that he was going to do that, and I liked his game. He was shooting pucks and going to the right places. One off the shin pad, the other one made its way into the net. When you don’t shoot them over the net, they’ve got a better chance of scoring right?”
The Bruins also have a better chance of winning when Lucic flexes his muscles a little bit, and he did that on a night when some might have questioned whether emotions would be running high against a moribund Blue Jackets club. Lucic led the Bruins with six registered hits that resonated with the Columbus defensemen, and dropped the gloves for the first time this season.
Lucic knocked the helmet off Brandon Prout with a strong right-handed punch, but both NHL heavyweights stood in for a number of big punches in a solid tilt. The B’s left winger seemed to be itching for a fight over the last couple of days, and also most locked horns with Rangers defenseman Justin Falk on Friday afternoon.
“It was just one of those things that happens, and it was really the first time I’ve actually been challenged since the [Joel] Rechlicz fight [in the preseason], and first willing combatant as well,” said Lucic, in reference to Gabriel Landeskog backing down from him in the loss to the Colorado Avalanche. “I think before [the fight], the game was kind of getting a little chippy…it kind of calmed it down after that.”
Calm isn’t an adjective that gets used all that often with Lucic, but it all worked for the left wing and his rising roster of teammates in impressive back-to-back wins over New York and Columbus.