Video courtesy of Biz Jacobs
Milan Lucic put his hands in the air in triumph; the smile on his face as much an expression of happiness as relief while the rest of his line mates came to celebrate with him.
Lucic’s line, that included David Krejci and Nathan Horton, had worked so hard the entire night and came through with the game-winning goal in Boston’s 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Yeah and obviously we felt like we had our chances throughout the game. I hit the crossbar there, Horty had a couple chances there in the first,” Lucic said. “But like you said we were determined to not come out of this game empty-handed as a line. And that’s what we need to do. We need to step up and play big no matter who it is.”
With 3:47 left in the third period, Lucic delivered a perfect pass to Nathan Horton on the doorstep, his shot and the subsequent rebound led to six-seconds of chaos. Krejci frantically tried to pound the puck home, five Lightning bodies were scattered around the net in defense and bodies were flailing. Through all the frenzy, the location of the puck was lost for just a few moments.
When the puck reappeared, Lucic gathered it just inches from the goal line and flicked it towards the net.
“I knew my angle wasn’t the best, so if I did bank it off someone it would go in,” Lucic said. “As a lefty on that side your angle is not the best. If I was a righty, there would have been no question about it.”
In addition to scoring his 28th goal of the season, Lucic picked up nine total penalty minutes including a five minute fighting major for his scrap with the Lightning’s Eric Brewer, that Lucic won handily. The fight, Shawn Thornton’s willingness to lay his body on the line and Johnny Boychuk’s solid hip checks added even more energy to the electric, playoff-like atmosphere in the Garden Thursday night.
“I don’t know that is because of the fights or that our 60-minute effort has been there which results in those kind of situations happening,” head coach Claude Julien said. “I think the fact that our guys were in to it, we’re skating well, we felt good about our game and we really want to obviously win this one for the right reasons.”
And there were a lot of reasons to win this game. More than the fact that Thursday’s win was Boston’s seventh in a row, the Bruins needed to find a way to bring the same energy and focus they have had on the road, where they are 22-7-4, back to the Garden, where they are 16-12-3. In addition, the game had a substantial impact on the overall standings as the Bruins begin their final push towards the playoffs.
“We’re playing for second place, and… we’ll play it any way,” Horton said. “That’s fun to be a part of.”
The Bruins have another tough test tomorrow as they try to extend their winning streak to eight games. The Pittsburgh Penguins come to Boston just two points behind the Bruins in the standings.
“We have a group of guys that seem to be very business-like people who want to accomplish things,” Julien said. “You just have to make sure you hang on to that, and with 18 games left this is a good time to build that kind of situation so it becomes consistent and second nature.”