Lucic, Bruins beat Lightning with late goal
Last night, with seven ticks remaining on a second-period power play, Nathan Horton picked an untimely spot to trip up Dominic Moore. Moments later, Milan Lucic compounded Horton’s penalty by plowing into Moore and earning a roughing call. Several seconds after that, Lucic earned five more minutes in the box after engaging Eric Brewer in a tug-and-jab scrap.
What was a Boston man-advantage turned into a five-on-three Tampa Bay power play for 1:53, plenty of time for a unit that includes Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Simon Gagne among its snipers. The Lightning could have turned a 1-1 game — Brewer and Steven Kampfer had exchanged second-period goals — upside down with the two-man advantage.
So it was only fitting that after the Boston penalty killers turned the five-on-three power play aside, Lucic and Horton redeemed themselves late in the third period. Mike Smith stoned Horton on a chance in front, but Lucic, who had set up Horton for the initial shot, lifted the rebound over Smith — the goalie was on his stomach amid a scramble — at 16:18 for the winning goal in last night’s 2-1 victory before 17,565 at TD Garden.
The Bruins are now in second place in the Eastern Conference, 3 points behind Philadelphia.
“I thought we had great speed, great legs tonight,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “We persevered. Again, big goal in the end by Lucic in the third period. I thought we deserved the game.’’
The blue-collar Lucic is in the middle of a run that is putting him among the league’s elite power forwards. Last night, he was an assist away from a Gordie Howe hat trick. Last Sunday against Edmonton, when Lucic squared off against Jim Vandermeer, the left wing was only a goal away from getting the kind of trick he prefers.
In the third, Lucic started the scoring rush in the neutral zone. After taking a dish from Shawn Thornton, Lucic read that no Tampa defenders were willing to engage him for the puck. So Lucic revved up the engine, played give-and-go with David Krejci, and steamed over the blue line with speed that no player could counter.
“I looked up and there was no one around me,’’ Lucic said. “So I tried to create some speed. Krech had a lot of speed coming. I knew I could try and put it underneath the defenseman’s stick. That’s kind of what happened. It just kept going in the corner. I just kept going with it and going with it.’’
Lucic hurtled around the Tampa net and spotted Horton in front. After Horton (game-high five shots in 16:53 of ice time) winged off a snapper, Lucic thought the puck had gone in. But Smith (26 saves), who had robbed Brad Marchand twice with a quick glove earlier in the game, flashed in front and stopped Horton’s shot. Krejci stabbed at the rebound. So did Smith and several of his teammates. After curling in front following his feed, Lucic was open at the side of the net. The puck hopped out. Lucic settled it with his stick, and roofed it over Smith.
And that was that.
“We were determined not to come out of this game empty-handed as a line,’’ said Lucic (four goals and three assists in his last five games). “That’s what we needed to do. We need to step up and play big no matter who it is.’’
Lucic and Horton only had that chance because of their teammates’ work on the penalty kill a period earlier. The Lightning have scored a league-leading nine goals in five-on-three situations. But last night, they were without Vincent Lecavalier (mid-body injury), one of the go-to gunners on the power play. So even though they had an extended two-man advantage, they failed to take advantage of the opportunity.
“We always score five on three,’’ said Tampa coach Guy Boucher. “We always score four on three. That’s one of the extremely few times that we didn’t. Vinny is not there, and he’s the one that’s usually created our biggest scoring chances five on three.’’
The task fell to Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and Johnny Boychuk to fend off Tampa’s attack. Twice, Chara pursued St. Louis instead of sagging back and keeping a tight PK triangle. Both times, St. Louis, perhaps surprised by Chara’s aggressiveness, lost the puck, and the Lightning had to regroup.
“I think that was the turning point,’’ Julien said. “Our guys did an outstanding job on that five on three. We didn’t give them much. We were patient. We didn’t start running around. Bergy up top did a great job staying in between and taking those shots away.
“Zdeno with the long stick gives us that opportunity to cut off a lot of passes. Even a couple times we didn’t get it out, that will come back to haunt you. But we were able to persevere and kill that. Right there, that gave us a lot of energy to bounce back and get back to our game.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.