WASHINGTON -- Already armed with a goal and an assist, Milan Lucic swears he didn't seek out the Gordie Howe Hat Trick in the third period Tuesday night.
"Fights, you don't really go around looking for them," he said. "They just kind of happen."
If his bout with Capitals defenseman John Erskine at 9:23 of the third period wasn't planned, then that's fine. But it did give the Bruins' power forward the second Gordie Howe of his career -- and it capped off a fine night for him and the Bruins, who jumped out to an early lead and held on to win 3-1 at Verizon Center for their third straight victory.
"Like I said, it just happens, obviously," Lucic said. "I'm happy with the way I played and the way we played as a line and the way the team played. We're getting great goaltending, the d-men are doing a great job with all six of them playing the way they need to play, and every line is doing what they need to do to contribute."
It was Lucic's second Gordie Howe hat trick; he had the other on Oct. 12, 2007, when he scored his first NHL goal and earned his first assist while taking part in his second fight.
Lucic, healthy now after missing 32 games last season with injuries, has been a key contributor on the Bruins' top line. His goal Tuesday night was his third of the season, and his assist on David Krejci's goal only 2:45 earlier was his second.
Krejci also had a goal and an assist Tuesday and Nathan Horton had an assist, giving the other two top-liners six points this season. All three forwards have recorded at least a point in all four Bruins' games this season.
"It seems right now the guys are having more fun playing with one another and it all goes back to the Vermont trip (in training camp) and the Europe trip (to Belfast and Prague)," Lucic said. "That's where we were really able to bond as a team. We're having a lot of fun out there and everyone has got each other's back, that's why we've been real competitive."
Boston coach Claude Julien said he's not coaching the team any differently now, but the difference in the team's offense so far this season (3.00 goals per game) as opposed to last season (an NHL-worst 2.39 goals per game) is certainly noticeable, and Lucic is part of the equation.
"You talk about freedom; it's more that they're executing and we've got some healthy bodies," Julien said. "The situation from last year to this year, it's very different. It's not so much about freedom; it's more that they're making plays. Horton is a great addition. Lucic is healthy. There are two players right there that are really connecting on that top line with Krejci. Our team is healthier and with a couple of new additions everything has seemed to fallen into place more like it was a couple years ago."
He's talking about two seasons ago, when the Bruins' were lights-out offensively with 3.29 goals-per game en route to finishing first in the Eastern Conference. If their offense this season keeps it up, even high-octane teams like the Capitals may find it difficult to keep pace.
"It's unbelievable," Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. "Compared to last year, when we were struggling to score goals, it seems through the first four games we're not having any trouble. It's nice to see and fun to play."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl