The Red Wings, desperate for a home-ice win that would have evened the series, were pressuring the Bruins' top defense pair of Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton, who needed to get to the bench for a change.
SOG: 11 | +/-: 0
Hamilton is not quite sure how he executed the pass, but his feed hit Lucic in stride at the Boston blue line and eventually led to Carl Soderberg setting up Lucic's tying goal. Jarome Iginla got the winner in overtime and Boston took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.
The second-year pro said he just knew where Nyquist was and that Lucic was ready to roll.
"I just did it," Hamilton said with a shrug Friday after taking part in an optional skate in preparation for Game 5 on Saturday at TD Garden (3 p.m. ET; NBC, RDS, TSN).
Hamilton has put his mark on the series with some stunning plays. His end-to-end rush that resulted in the Bruins' first goal in Game 3 tilted the series in Boston's favor. Then he finished Game 4 by taking the shot that hit three people, including Iginla, and put the Bruins one win away from the second round.
There have been times in this series when Hamilton has calmed things down when others his age, or even older, would have panicked. He's made it difficult for the Red Wings to establish a forecheck in either the offensive or neutral zones because of his ability to read where the defenders are and either push the pace or pull back. He's essentially a quarterback on skates.
It's impressive considering that two years ago Hamilton was with the Niagara Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League. Last season, the ninth pick in 2011 NHL Draft made the jump and responded with five goals and 11 assists in 42 games. But in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he was an afterthought. He held his own with three assists in seven games, but when the Bruins' defense got healthy, he watched the Eastern Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final from the press box.
In his second season, like his first, Hamilton played mostly with Chara, a six-time All-Star and 2009 Norris Trophy winner. But empowered by a year of experience, Hamilton was no longer a passenger. They went head-to-head and mostly prevailed against some of the best lines in the League.
Although he's shared some of the right-side shifts next to Chara with Johnny Boychuk and Kevan Miller, Hamilton has continued the trend from the regular season and been on the ice most often against Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk. Hamilton hasn't shied away from playing the body at the playoff level and he's shown a strong stick in the passing lanes.
"I look at Dougie Hamilton, he's had an unbelievable start to the playoffs," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Not only is he really good in containing to make those great offensive plays, he's also been physical, he's also been strong defensively, and that's just a guy, again, getting more confidence, and we know he is getting stronger as he gets older. There is still a lot ahead for him, but what we're seeing right now has been really, really good."
Hamilton has a mentor like no other; Chara is a veteran sage on the bench whenever an issue needs to be addressed. He would never publicly call out a teammate, but Hamilton wouldn't be on the top defensive pair without the captain's seal of approval.
"He improved, for sure. It takes an adjustment for a younger player to realize that you have to play a certain way to be good against top lines," Chara said. "You can't be always playing the same way against everybody. You've got to be more cautious about things you do and things that obviously the top players do from the other team. You have to be really focusing, and I think he's really improving in that area."
There were some questions heading into the postseason about who the Bruins would pair alongside Chara with Dennis Seidenberg lost for the playoffs with an injury. Seidenberg and Chara were a rock as the No. 1 pair on the Stanley Cup championship team in 2011 and the Stanley Cup runner-up last year.
In Seidenberg's absence, Hamilton has been the answer.
"I think we're pretty good together now," he said. "I think we have good chemistry and I know where he is on the ice and stuff like that. I know what he's going to do. Obviously I think that helps a lot. I think maybe at the start you don't really know and now I know pretty much what he's going to do every time he has the puck."
Setbacks are sure to come Hamilton's way at some point in this series, these playoffs, and the years ahead. Every young player, especially on defense, falls into some valleys. If Hamilton handles the lows with the poise he's handled speedy forecheckers, he'll contribute to plenty more victories like the one in Game 4.