In the past, Milan Lucic has been the subject of criticism from Boston Bruins fans. But, at least for one night, he got to silence his critics.
In front of another sellout crowd of 17,565 at the TD Garden, Lucic sparked the Bruins; scoring the games first goal in the team’s 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers Saturday night. And his goal looked was reminiscent of his 30-goal campaign from the 2010-11 season.
With the game still scoreless, the Bruins forward drove hard to the net on a 2-on-1 with fellow linemate David Krejci. Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist made the initial stop on Krejci, but Lucic was able to bang home the rebound.
Against a team who prides themselves on blocking shots – and against a team who’s had the Bruins’ number – Lucic, who also received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third period, was appreciative of the fast start to get the crowd behind them.
More after the jump, including postgame video from Lucic…
“That was one of the things we talked about, is the thing that kind of crept out of our game, the net drive, and having that guy drive the middle and get those rebounds,” said Lucic, who is hours removed from the birth of his newborn daughter, Valentina. “Myself, and even [Daniel Paille's] goal – two guys driving to the net and just getting those dirty goals. Those have been big for us these last couple of years.”
It’s no secret that the Bruins pride themselves on getting pucks to the net and getting in the dirty areas. That seemed to have been missing during their Stanley Cup hangover last season, but at least for Saturday night it was right back to basics.
The spark on the Bruins bench no doubt came from Lucic’s goal. And for head coach Claude Julien, it was a welcoming sight.
“The microscope has been on him for a long time, because people thought that he doesn’t play [well] and that maybe he isn’t in the best of shape, and there were a lot of question marks on him,” he said. “But I thought he played a solid game and not only did he score that goal by driving to the net, but physically and everything else, he did well.
It was something Bruins fans certainly appreciated, who came out in full force to support their team after the long lockout.
“It was great to see that they put everything that happened [during the lockout] behind them,” Lucic said. “I know for myself I don’t even like talking about [the lockout] anymore. It’s great to see that it’s over and done with and they’re excited for hockey, they’re excited to see us play, and as a player, and as a team, we just want to go out there and put the best product on the ice.
“The fans were awesome. It was great to see the fans back,” Lucic added about the fans in The Hub of Hockey. “As a player, you personally couldn’t pick a better spot than to play in Boston with the fans that we have here. I personally thank them for everything they did here tonight.”
Despite the shortened season, there’s still a little ways away for the Bruins to look ahead. But Lucic’s presence along with Krejci and Nathan Horton will be vital to the team’s success.
If Saturday was any indication, then Lucic and the rest of the Black and Gold will be heading in the right direction.