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Bruins crash the net

Lucic’s big jolt on Miller sparks rout

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By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / November 13, 2011

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In last night’s first period, with his team down 1-0, Milan Lucic had a chance to tie the score. Lucic blocked a Thomas Vanek shot and was looking for a breakaway.

But the puck skittered off Lucic’s stick. Ryan Miller left the crease to play the puck. An instant after Miller batted the puck away, Lucic, instead of stopping short or peeling off, barreled over the Buffalo goalie. Miller’s mask popped off during the impact. Lucic was called for charging.

As he went down, the 175-pound Miller took a swipe with his stick at the 220-pound Lucic. But Miller’s biggest potshot came after last night’s game, a 6-2 Bruins’ win.

“I just want to say what a piece of [expletive] I think Lucic is,’’ said Miller, who was pulled after the second period, according to coach Lindy Ruff, because of a sore neck. “Fifty pounds on me and he runs me like that. It’s unbelievable. Everyone in this city sees him as a big, tough, solid player. I respected him for how hard he played. That was gutless. Gutless. Piece of [expletive].’’

Lucic explained that as he chased the puck, he had nowhere to go but into Miller.

“I just put my head down and tried to get to it first,’’ Lucic said. “Next thing I looked up, he’s out of his net and it was a collision. Going into a situation like that, I’m going to brace myself. I was going full speed. So it’s pretty hard for me to put on the brakes.’’

It was most likely no coincidence that after Lucic flattened Miller, the Bruins found their legs and kicked off their rally. At 7:40 of the second, Rich Peverley scored the first of three goals for the Bruins in the middle frame. In the third, the Bruins poured three more pucks behind relief netminder Jhonas Enroth.

Tyler Seguin led the offensive charge with two goals and one assist. The Bruins have won five straight games and are at 8-7-0, above. 500 for the first time as defending champions.

“This week, our whole focus was on getting ourselves above .500,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “The only way to do that was to win three games. Our focus was on one game at a time. We’re a team that just answers better with a smaller vision on what has to be done. We just went out there, took care of the first game, built momentum, and took it into the second and third game.’’

The latest win was a textbook example of the Bruins flexing their muscles and kicking sand in the Sabres’ faces. If a Buffalo forward had run Tim Thomas into the ice, the Bruins would have responded with all guns blazing. Starting with Thomas himself.

But the Sabres had mostly skilled players instead of hard hats on the ice during the Lucic-Miller clash: Thomas Vanek, Paul Gaustad, Jason Pominville, Tyler Myers, and Andrej Sekera. Aside from a few pushes and naughty words, the Sabres didn’t do much to let Lucic know they didn’t appreciate their goalie getting run. It resembled the Bruins’ answer to Matt Cooke’s career-threatening hit to Marc Savard’s head two seasons ago.

When asked if he thought the Sabres’ response was tepic, Lucic said, “A little bit. Yeah.’’ At the other end, Thomas was wondering if he’d be the pin to Buffalo’s bowling ball in return.

“After that happened, I was just trying to make sure I was on my toes. I wasn’t sure if there would be a retribution hit,’’ Thomas said. “That’s the old-school way. That’s all I’ve got to say about it. I will say that as a goalie, you’re not even prepared for people to hit you in a situation like that. You’ve been trained over the course of your whole career that you’re not going to get hit in a situation like that. It must have taken him by surprise.’’

Once the Bruins recognized Buffalo wasn’t interested in pushing back, they kept the heat on. In the second, a pair of Myers cough-ups led to Peverley’s goal and Seguin’s first strike.

Sixteen seconds after Seguin’s goal, Nathan Horton made it 3-1, this time after ex-Canuck Christian Ehrhoff was caught wandering in the neutral zone. It was the fifth time in the last four games the Bruins scored twice within 30 seconds.

In the third period, another Ehrhoff mistake - a tape-to-tape pass to Peverley - led to a Chris Kelly tap-in at 5:28. Less than two minutes later, Buffalo’s turnstile defense allowed Patrice Bergeron to stickhandle through the offensive zone, then find Seguin for his second goal.

The Bruins stamped an exclamation point on the victory when Marchand lifted a backhander over Enroth (10 saves) at 9:52.

“I thought we didn’t push back,’’ Gaustad said. “There’s no reason to be scared. We had to go after it and we didn’t. We lost the second and third period.’’

The rematch takes place in Buffalo Nov. 23. The Sabres don’t have a designated enforcer on their roster now. They might when Lucic and Co. come for a pre-Thanksgiving visit. The Bruins welcome the rough stuff.

“Something like that happens, there’s a bit of a scuffle and it certainly energizes our team,’’ Julien said. “It’s something we know from the past that when teams want to engage with us, we’re certainly willing to do our fair share.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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