BOSTON — He ended his 20-game goal drought with a power play tally at 12:02 of the first. He put a dagger to the Flyers’ hopes at 15:03 of the third with his second goal.
More importantly, in Game 4, Milan Lucic helped his team put last year’s collapse behind.
“It feels good,” Lucic said on getting back on the score sheet after the Bruins clinched a berth in the Eastern Conference finals with a 5-1 win over the Flyers Friday night at TD Garden. “It’s been kind of frustrating in my last 20 games not being able to put the puck in the back of the net.
“Tonight I was able to get open and got a couple great plays from [Nathan] Horton to set me up and it was nice to step up and score big goals.”
Before Friday, the last time Lucic scored a goal was back on March 22nd when he notched his 30th goal of the 2010-11 regular season in the Bruins’ 4-1 victory over the Devils. After the game, he represented a new tradition in the Bruins’ locker room as the recipient of the starter jacket, given out to the player of the game.
On Friday, Lucic wore that starter jacket for the second time this season. Lucic was pleased to get the honor from his teammates, again.
“Last time I wore this jacket was in a big win for us against the Devils when I got my 30th,” reflected Lucic. “This win, regardless of the two goals, was a huge win for our hockey club and our organization.”
While he was throwing his weight around and getting some good scoring chances, Lucic still wasn’t able to break through until Friday.
A day after Game 3, however, coach Claude Julien thought it was only a matter of time until Lucic contributed on the scoresheet.
“He’s been a much better player and skating better,” Julien reflected after Thursday’s practice. “Watching him in practice [Thursday morning] he’s really coming around and sooner or later you are going to see him contribute on that score sheet as far as goals are concerned.”
With Philly in desperation mode after Johnny Boychuk fired a laser past Sergei Bobrovsky to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead early in the third, the Flyers were getting pressure on Tim Thomas looking for the equalizer. After weathering the Flyers’ storm, Lucic took a feed from Horton, went in on a breakaway and sneaked the puck past Bobrovsky to put his team ahead by two.
At that point, the Bruins were in cruise control; stamping their trip to the next round.
“Well that’s what it was all about there,” Julien said on the impact of Lucic’s second goal. “We had to weather that storm and it was important to get the puck out of our end. Whenever we had the opportunity to put them deep, if they were going to attack…When we got that third goal, which was a big goal, it certainly relieved a lot of pressure.”
The team couldn’t have asked for a better time to get Lucic back on track as they make their first trip to the Eastern Conference finals in 19 years, when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning. And although he broke his goal drought Friday, Lucic is more pleased on helping the Bruins get that feat — especially after the previous two years where they were eliminated in seven games by Carolina in ’09 and this same Philly squad last year.
“It’s been since 1992 since we made the conference finals,” Lucic said. “The last three years we’ve been looking for that eighth win to advance to the third round, and we’re happy to get the job done tonight.”