Video courtesy of Biz Jacobs
BOSTON — If Kyra Sedgwick ever leaves “The Closer,” Milan Lucic can surely take her place.
In what has become a familiar scene for the Boston Bruins this season, Lucic was on the ice in the final minute of regulation. The Bruins were clinging to a 3-2 lead over the New York Islanders in a Thursday night tilt at TD Garden. Islanders goaltender Rick Dipietro left the net with just over a minute remaining, right about the same time Lucic found the puck at the top of his own zone. With the now-empty net looming at the other end, Lucic ripped a wrister that slid down the middle of the ice and tickled the twine to put Boston ahead, 4-2.
Patrice Bergeron added another empty-netter to close the scoring and ensure the Bruins of a 5-2 victory. However, Lucic’s goal gave the B’s some all-important breathing room and a less-stressful final 60 seconds. It also gave him his fourth empty net goal of the season, which is new territory for Lucic this season.
“Until this year, I haven’t really been on the ice for empty-netters,” Lucic said. “The guys were kind of bugging me for all these empty net goals, but I’ll take them any way I can. I wouldn’t have had those a couple of years ago or even last year.”
“I think Looch has been a lot better along the wall in our own end,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. When you see guys (perform well) in those areas, they build trust in the coaching staff and you don’t hesitate to put them out there.”
Hard work and solid play have earned Lucic more responsibility, and the power forward has done well with that added workload. After a injury-plagued season that saw him score just nine goals, he has bounced back and now has a team-leading 15 after Thursday’s two-goal performance.
The first one required a bit of luck, as his shot went off the post, hit DiPietro in the back, and finally settled in the back of the net for the ever-crucial first goal of the contest.
“If it was last year, it would have hit the post, hit him in the back and went wide,” Lucic said. “When I got the skate in the wrist, last year it would have been disastrous and I would have been out for three months. This year it seems like everything is going my way.”
The return to form for Lucic began last year in the playoffs, when he enjoyed success in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Philadelphia.
“In that Philadelphia series, I was able to play with a lot of confidence and score a bunch of goals,” Lucic said. “It seems like it’s been able to carryover from last year.”
Bruins fans likely want to forget that fateful series against the Flyers, but Lucic is glad that the effort and personal results he enjoyed during that seven-game stretch are sticking with him. It’s been a terrific start to the 2010 season, and Lucic is hopeful he can continue to be “The Closer” for the Bruins and finish off the season much like he finished tonight’s game.
“I feel like I’m working hard to get my opportunities and it’s paid off,” Lucic said. “I’m happy with my results so far but definitely not satisfied. You gotta always push for more.”