By Joe Haggerty
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. There were several things the Bruins needed to achieve before victory could be theirs this postseason, and they've finally begun hitting their marks.
Tim Thomas owned the third period, the Bs shut down the vauntedCanadien power play, and most importantly the Black and Gold finally jumped out in front with an early lead. It was a bit of a white-knuckle grip down the stretch in a 4-2 win over Montreal at the Bell Centre in Game 3 Monday night, but there were a bevyof positive developments.
Among those happy story lines in the Boston victory were goals scored by Nathan Horton and David Krejci from the Bs top line after a pair of quiet games to start things off. Milan Lucic was still shut off from the scoresheet for the third straight game, but as a line the trio combined for five shots on net and a pair of goals in the pivotal victory.
It was Hortons first NHL playoff goal -- and the first postseason dividend for a right wing who entered the series with a lot of hope and expectations -- and Krejcis 8th goal and 22nd point in 30 career postseason games for the Bruins. The Krejci score was a skill play all the way with a one-time snap to the top corner off a great Bergeron pass, but the Horton strike was a bit more of a playoff-style strike.Horton collected a wide shot off the back boards, and found a path to squirt the puck through Carey Price's pads and backside in a heads up play. More often than not it's the ugly, unexpected goals that make the difference in the postseason, and Horton is getting that as his playoff experience grows.
Claude Julien noted theproduction out of his No. 1 line in Boston's third playoff game, and hopes strides by Krejci and Horton can kickstart Lucics game.
He was better last night, Julien said of Lucic. If his linemates are starting to roll then he follows up, or vice versa. Usually the other guys catch up to him. I expect him to be better, and we need him to be better if were going to win this series.
But Lucic was shut out when Carey Price closed up the five-hole between his pads on a breakaway in the second period, and it was a turning point in the game as Andrei Kostitsyn immediately returned the threat with Montreals first goal. The Lucic breakaway was the kind of goal that could spark an emotion-based player like the young B's forward, but he's still looking for it.
The combination of offensive playmaking and brutish physicality to create someimpact in the offensive end is the hallmark of Lucic's game, and it hasnt taken place thus far against the Habs.
We obviously felt like we did not get enough done the first two games. You look at our scoring chances in the first game I think we only had one chance as a line and the second I think again we only had one scoring chance as a line, said Lucic. We were able to generate more, but still I think we are going to have to keep working and working hard and working smart.
One thing that could help Lucic to get his game back on track: focusing on the pounding physical play that always helps him regain his offensive mojo, and shortening his shifts a bit so hes not skating himself into an exhausted shell. It appears thatLucicdoesn't have the energy left in the tank to remove players from the puck or finish off great opportunities when he gets them at the tail end of marathon shifts.
Lucic has wandered pretty far away from his blue-collar physical image at timesthis season while potting a team-high 30 goals, and now his line is being threatened for top status as Patrice Bergeron's No. 2 forward group continues to play well. Bergeron has been Bostons bestplayer on the ice during the postseason as his nine shots on net and three points (1 goal, 2 assists) would attest.
With jobs -- specifically, Julien's and perhaps even GM Peter Chiarelli's -- potentially on the line, it was key for the Bruins not to panic. They didn't Monday, thanks in large part to Horton's and Krejci's resurrection, and they're back in the series.
Now the goal is to get Lucic back on top of his game, as well.