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Lucic standing out in this crowd

Winger’s big season continues with 30th

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / March 23, 2011

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It has already qualified as a year of years for Milan Lucic, who, at the ripe old age of 22, seems to have grown up before everyone’s eyes.

This season, his fourth in a Bruins sweater, the hulking left winger from Vancouver has begun an assault on his career milestones.

■He played in his 200th career game in the season opener vs. the Coyotes Oct. 9.

■He recorded his 100th career point with a goal in a 7-4 victory over the Penguins Nov. 10.

■And, in last night’s 4-1 triumph over the Devils before a TD Garden sellout of 17,565, Lucic added yet another significant item to his growing hockey résumé when he tallied his 30th goal of the season on a pretty feed from Patrice Bergeron at 16:13 of the third period. With that tally, Lucic, Boston’s leading goal scorer (30-25—55), became the franchise’s first 30-goal scorer since Phil Kessel had 36 in 2008-09.

“He’s having a good year,’’ Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Anybody who scores 30 in this league is a pretty good player. And he’s playing his type of game as well. He’s physically involved. I think he’s winning a lot of his battles and he’s going in front of the net and taking the space that needs to be taken. Even a couple times tonight we saw real good effort from him backchecking and helping out defensively.

“So when a player plays like that, you can’t complain. I think he’s deserving of what’s happening to him because he’s been pretty consistent.’’

On a night when he was credited with the primary assist (a crisp cross-ice pass) on Zdeno Chara’s power-play goal at 8:17 of the second period, giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead, it was Lucic who was recognized as the game’s No. 1 star for reaching his milestone.

“It feels great to be able to get the 30th,’’ Lucic said. “Obviously, I think the biggest thing here tonight, I felt like we played Bruins hockey again. Obviously, it wasn’t the best start for ourselves — first 10 minutes we only had one shot.

“After they got their first power-play goal I think we started kicking into gear and started getting pucks in behind them and started winning battles like we used to.

“And that was a big reason why we were able to generate four goals.’’

Another reason the Bruins were able to win for only the second time in their last eight games was because of another telling statistic:

In the games Lucic has scored, the Bruins are 22-2. The two times he scored and it didn’t result in a victory was in a pair of road losses Dec. 16 (4-3) and March 8 (4-1) to — you guessed it — the Canadiens, who will make their final regular-season visit to TD Garden tomorrow night.

“It has been pretty amazing,’’ Bergeron said of Lucic’s emergence. “The way he developed was something special. It seems like he keeps improving. He is still young. I don’t think he’s finished growing yet and getting better as a player. We are just happy.’’

No one, though, was happier than Lucic, who entered the game having already recorded career highs for goals (29) and points (53).

So, when he spied Bergeron racing to the boards to retrieve a loose puck near the net, Lucic knew what to do.

He put on the brakes and waited for Bergeron to find him for the one-timer that gave the Bruins a 3-1 cushion in the third period.

“Yeah, it was a great pass by Bergy,’’ Lucic said. “I knew he saw me and he’s a gifted player so he made a great pass like that. And also you have to give credit to my boy Horty [Nathan Horton] there, creating a screen in front of the net. He’s done that a lot this year when I’ve shot the puck and it’s just been a great season so far. I’ve had a lot of fun playing with Krech [David Krejci] and Horty.

“There have been times with Bergy and also times with Savvy [Marc Savard] but just chemistry that we’ve been able to create I think has been able to help my game a lot.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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