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Bruins could use vintage performance from top line

Monday, 06.24.2013 / 2:07 PM
Tal Pinchevsky  - NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- On a Boston Bruins team known for its chemistry and continuity, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and David Krejci have played on a line together longer than anyone. The trio has remained intact through countless playoff battles and came together on two separate Game 7 winners by Horton in the team's run to the 2011 Stanley Cup.

The line was again one of the hottest in the League through much of this postseason, with Krejci's 16 assists and 25 points still leading all players. But with the Bruins trailing 3-2 against the Chicago Blackhawks entering Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS), one of the NHL's most imposing lines has suddenly gone silent, and its members aren't happy about it.

"I think it’s plain and simple; obviously we need to play better," Horton said Sunday. "We need to create a little bit more and bury our chances when we get them and not give them too much. But I think the big picture is just win two games."

The trio exploded in Game 1 of the series, combining for two goals -- both by Lucic -- and six points against Chicago. But they've combined for five points in the four games since, and were on the ice for all three Blackhawks goals in a 3-1 Game 5 loss that put Boston behind the eight-ball.

"We were on for all the goals; obviously you don’t want to be on for any goals and you want to be a plus player in the game, and we weren’t. We know if we’re going to have any chance to win, we have to be on the plus side," Horton said. "There hasn’t been a lot of room out there, but we’ve got to make our own room and we’ve got to play the way we want to play, play the way we can."

If recent history is an indicator, the line could be in for a big night. The previous time the Bruins faced elimination was in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round. That night, the trio combined for two goals and five points in the third period; Horton and Lucic scored to key Boston's comeback from a 4-1 deficit.

In their 2011 Stanley Cup run, Lucic made the pass to Horton on his first Game 7 winner in the opening round against the Montreal Canadiens. With a trip to the Cup Final on the line, Krejci made the pass to Horton on his next Game 7 winner in the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

When Horton was knocked out of the Stanley Cup Final by a punishing hit from Vancouver Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome in Game 3, the Bruins rallied to win the title. Horton is contending with an upper-body injury this time around, but he's toughing it out and looking to help his line bounce back against Chicago.

"We need to do more. We've definitely talked about being better," Lucic said Monday. "We talked about how there is no reason we can't bring our best in situations like this. We want to be better, we know we can be better. It's up to us to create more chances and find more ways to score."

Horton was out with an injury the prior time this Bruins team faced a Cup Final Game 6 in Boston while trailing 3-2 in the series. In his absence, Krejci and Lucic stepped up against Vancouver, each scoring in a 5-2 win that would force Game 7, which the Bruins won 4-0 to win the Stanley Cup. With the team back in this familiar spot, coach Claude Julien is pleased his biggest and most-tenured line is looking to do more.

"I like the fact that they're thinking that way. It's what you want your players to say," Julien said. "You want them to be more demanding. You want them to tell you that they want to be better and they need to be better. That's just because we want to win, and to be able to do that you have to give a little bit more."

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