Boston Bruins: Montreal Matchup Brings out the Standard Milan Lucic Again
Only the perpetual playoff no-shows from Toronto, another frequent adversary and Northeast Division cohabitant, have authorized more points (22 to 17).
The New York Islanders, who likewise have not seen postseason action since Lucic broke into the NHL in 2007-08, were “ahead” of the Habs in the points-against category leading up to Wednesday night. That was until a game-winning assist at Montreal’s Bell Centre gave him an identical 17 career points against the two franchises.
With a pair of penalties, both drawn by Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov, Lucic upped his unmatched PIM total to 69 in 29 regular-season meetings with Montreal.
Being on the ice for both Boston goals, he elevated his career plus-minus to plus-eight versus the Habs, which is third only to a plus-nine against Ottawa and plus-12 against the aforementioned Maple Leafs.
Wednesday night’s gritty, come-from-behind 2-1 triumph was simply another night’s work for Lucic against a time-honored rival. Although he did not chalk up any shots on goal, he made a tangible contribution in every other key category and, at times, went at least a tad over the line.
Amidst Montreal’s 11-4 romp in the first-period shooting gallery, Lucic was the giver and recipient of two hits apiece. Early in the middle frame, at the 3:32 mark, he blocked blueliner Alexei Emelin’s slapper to prolong a Canadiens’ shooting drought against goaltender Tuukka Rask that would last for the first 10:38 of the period.
As it happened, though, Lucic played an indirect role in splashing that drought when he fumbled his discipline and was whistled for high-sticking Markov at 8:56. He was only four seconds away from his jailbreak when PK Subban slugged home the Habs’ second power-play shot for the icebreaker.
With the Bruins trailing and still not generating much in the offensive zone, Lucic’s frustration was self-evident a few moments later. He was back in the box at 14:09 for slashing Markov and only a few seconds after Markov brooked the Boston winger’s fifth body-check of the night.
But on the other side of the second intermission, a slight tweak in the line configurations sparked the turning point when Tyler Seguin converted David Krejci’s setup a mere 14 seconds after the faceoff.
Lucic effectively joined in on that play, though he did not have a hand in the goal. But when the newfangled troika returned for another shift in the second minute, he helped to polish a rush piloted by Seguin when he forwarded a feed from the far alley to Krejci, who raked it in for the go-ahead strike.
Not a bad way to redeem a costly indiscretion from one period prior.
When the Habs sought to reverse the momentum once more by continuing an attack after Chris Kelly’s hooking minor was up, Lucic tallied his sixth hit of the night at the expense of Emelin. Seconds later, he was among those crashing the crease in a post-whistle scrum that ultimately landed Brendan Gallagher and Adam McQuaid in the bin for matching minors.
Montreal pushed further in the climactic moments of the final frame. Although the Bruins kept the activity relatively sparse, five-straight recorded plays between 16:19 and 18:41 were attempted shots by the Canadiens.
In the middle of that sequence was another point shot―this one via Josh Gorges―blocked by Lucic, giving him his first multi-block effort of the 2013 season. It was the sixth time he would be struck by a Montreal shot or a Montreal body, having absorbed four hits to go with the team-leading six he dished out himself.
It was just another night of mixing grunt work with glamour and helping the Bruins in their effort to keep a few strides ahead of the Habs in the standings.
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