Lucic: Bruins top lines need to 'kick it into gear'


Lucic: Bruins top lines need to 'kick it into gear'

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Bruins big-name forwards know they need to be better. The entire team needs to lift up its game, but those forwards have a lot of work to do.

After managing just one goal in each of the first two playoffs games against the Washington Capitals and making Washington rookie Braden Holtby look like the next Ken Dryden in the process the focus is on big names like Milan Lucic. And rightfully so.

Maybe right now theyre trying to be a little too cute and forcing some passes where either its a forced play or the guys not expecting it. Theyve just got to simplify a little bit more, said Claude Julien. Weve got some guys on that line Rich Peverley can shoot the puck, Dave Krejci is certainly a good playmaker, and Looch Milan Lucic can drive to net as good as anybody.

So theyve got some strength that we know can be extremely useful to our hockey club.

Theres a reason the Bs were the only team with six 20-goal scorers in the NHL this season. They have plenty of offensive skill, but it hasnt materialized during the first two games of the postseason.

After being second in the league in scoring, only getting two goals in two games is something were not happy with, said Lucic. Especially the top two lines. We need to be better . . . all of us. Especially me. We need to create opportunities in the offensive zone and we need to take it upon ourselves to be better.

Lucic and Seguin combined for the same number of shots as Shawn Thornton in Saturdays double-overtime 2-1 loss to the Caps. Lucic said that he knows he needs to be better.

Credit the Capitals for creating an unbreakable defensive front in the slot area and blocking 42 shots through the first two games.

But Lucic, at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, knows he needs to be more of a presence. Lucic should be among the first forwards crashing the net and unsettling the Caps' rookie netminder, and hes acutely aware of it.

Theyre doing a good job of making it tough on us, but its something we need to find a way to battle through it, said Lucic. Its up to us to kick it into gear and fight our way through their tight defensive checking to create offensive opportunities.

Its a mindset that we want to win those battles, we want to fight for the puck and when we get it well make good, strong plays to make the most of it.

In two games against Washington Lucic has appeared to play slowly and indecisively amid a stubborn Capitals defensive plan thats working to near perfection. While crediting Washington for a job well done, Lucic knows the Bs top two lines are better than what they've show: zero goals in two games.

While some might look at Nathan Hortons absence as a reason for the offensive no-show, there is a lot more going on than that. Its about a key piece of the Black and Gold thats given C performances at a time of the season when they need to be straight A students.

Its not like Im trying not to do anything. But youve got to put pressure on yourself to want to do better, said Lucic, who now has five goals in his last 27 playoff games after potting 10 goals in his first 30 postseason contests. I want to be better and Ill do everything I can to help this team win.

The Bruins get their first crack at doing better Monday night when they enter Washington D.C. for Game Three of a tightly-wound best-of-seven series.

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1


STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl


Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.