BOSTON -- The same words are often tossed around with Milan Lucic.
Words like beast, intimidator, bruiser and prototypical power forward have always been associated with the Bruins left winger during his five seasons in Boston.
But theres a new one that continues to emerge as he gains in experience and stature around the league: leader.
Great leaders summon signature performances when their team needs them most in the big moments, and Lucic had himself a whale of a game in a very necessary 4-3 shootout win over the Nashville Predators at TD Garden.
Leadership is about action every bit as much as its about words, and he had both going for him in a pivotal Saturday matinee.
It was Lucic that tied the game with less than two minutes remaining in the third period to assure Boston would get the overtime point, it was Lucic that led the Bruins with seven shots on net while dominating through 60 minutes and it was Lucic that made sure his hockey club got the W by whatever means were necessary.
Tyler Seguin had a solid effort in his own right with offensive chances and Bostons first score in the shootout, but he didnt hesitate when asked what he was thinking watching No. 17 barrel his way through the Preds.
I was thinking hes a leader, said Seguin. We definitely needed our leaders to step up tonight and they definitely did. Zee, Bergie and Loochthe list goes on. I think all the guys stepped up today and showed good character.
Character has never been in doubt for Lucic during his five seasons in Boston, and in the last two years his on-ice production and consistency have matched all of the intangibles he brings to the table. Lucic was just an 18-year-old learning the ropes when he first arrived in town, but his imprint on the Black and Gold has grown stronger and stronger each season.
It was Lucic, after all, who had a goal taken from him early in the embarrassing 6-0 loss to the Sabres.
He was the poster boy for the frustration and aggravation the Bs felt after enduring one of the worst spankings Lucic has endured during his time with the Bruins.
He harnessed all that frustration and pent-up anger into one of his best games of the year. True to his nature, he also didnt want the credit afterward despite being Bostons best forward on the ice that day.
Its, you know not just myself, I think the whole team we have a lot of pride. We dont like losing, even if its 1-0 never mind 6-0. You never want to get down on yourself and start feeling sorry for yourself. I think thats when the pride kicks in. Its up to different guys at different times to step up and play big at key moments, said Lucic. We had that here today. You look at the Campbell line there, theyve been playing so well for so long and they just havent been getting the results.
They finally step up and score a big goal for us so. I talked about it yesterdaysomeone asked me if you cant just 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.
It would have been heart-breaking had Mike Fishers third period goal through the pads of Tim Thomas served as the regulation game-winner after the Bruins had dominated the Predators through three periods. But Lucic and his teammates have learned about the refusal to lose while grinding all the way to a Stanley Cup championship.
That Stanley Cup level stubbornness was on display with the Bruins determined to make Saturday the day that their stretch of mediocrity is dead and buried.
Thats what we were talking about most: not getting frustrated, staying on course, keep getting pucks to the net, keep trying to find those rebounds and keep creating those scoring chances. We wanted to keep working hard and getting on pucks, said Lucic. That was more of the talk than guys getting on each other or getting on themselves. It was a pretty positive feeling on the bench and it was a workman-like feel on the bench and on the ice too. Thats what kept us going for that whole game.
Desperation was in full flight as the Bruins had pulled Tim Thomas from the game, and all comeback efforts seemed futile against Pekka Rinne on a day that he was feeling it. But the Bruins kept pushing and Lucic drew a tripping call on Sergei Kostitsyn while controlling the puck in the offensive zone. That gave Lucic and the Bruins a punchers chance to tie things up.
They did just that on the ensuing power play when Rich Peverley fired a shot wide from the high slot that bounced off the end boards, and took a quick bounce back toward the front of the net. Lucic was barreling down with all his speed crashing at the net, and he lifted a backhander over Rinne after the puck bounced directly on his stick.
With 67 seconds left on the clock it was Lucic giving his Bruins life where it appeared there was none.
At that stage, its all out. We had some good puck bounces off the boards tonight, and it came right out, said Claude Julien. Because he had some good speed, he was able to whack that puck in. We kind of needed that break.
It would have beenit probably would have been a real tough loss had we not been able to come out with a win the way we had played this afternoon. He found a way to get us back into it.
The fortuitous bounce of the puck is exactly what Lucic and the Bruins both needed, but it was hard-earned after the Bs power forward had dominated play heading into the final stretch.
When he plays like that hes obviously tough to defend, hes so big, and when theres a team that plays on man-on-man like that its tough for that defender to stay on himhes so strong, said Patrice Bergeron, who has watched Lucic mature into a bona fide NHL force of nature over the years. I think he made some great plays to get it to the net and just drive and use his speed and his body. He had a great game.
Aside from the team importance, the goal also had some pretty weighty significance for Lucic on an individual level as well. The game-tying strike was Lucics 20th goal of the season, and made him the first NHL player this season to reach both the 20 goal and 100 penalty minute plateaus in the ultimate signal of his strength-and-skill game.
The 20 goals scored also gives him his second straight season of achieving that mark a piece of proof that Lucic is much more than the third line energy player some thought he might be upon entering the league.
Hes also not done yet. After potting 30 goals last season Lucic is again looking to crack the 30-goal barrier again this season and prove that hes one of the best young players in the NHL today.
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, admitted Lucic. Im still young so you want to try to get better every year.
Its been great Ive been able to get to that 20-goal mark two straight years. There are 29 games left and hopefully I can get to the 30 mark again.
Hes done it with his production and hes doing it with big game performances when his Bruins team needs him most.
Thats what being a great hockey player is all about.
Lucic continues to show thats exactly what hes growing into with each and every season.