MONTREAL -- Milan Lucic came so close to coming out of it unscathed.
After a summer of hearing about the remarks he made in the handshake line at the end of the Boston Bruins' loss in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Montreal Canadiens, Lucic was facing those Canadiens again for the first time Thursday, and all eyes were on him.
On his first shift of the game, Lucic picked up the puck with speed and entered the Canadiens zone only to have his nemesis, Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin, knock him down with a solid shoulder check.
The sellout Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 fans roared its approval, but Lucic did nothing to retaliate. In fact, Lucic was on his best behavior for most of the night, focused on helping the Bruins win more so than exacting any sort of revenge for a playoff loss five months earlier.
But in the final minutes, with the Bruins trailing 5-4 but taking the play to the Canadiens in an effort to tie the game, Lucic was faced with an opportunity too difficult to resist. Lucic was bearing down on Emelin in the neutral zone and finished his check, except he hit Emelin in the back and into the boards.
Lucic was called for boarding, made a gesture to the fans as he entered the penalty box, and then was given a misconduct as he exited it after Canadiens forward PA Parenteau scored into an empty net to seal a 6-4 victory with 19.4 seconds left to play.
Boston coach Claude Julien chose not to comment on the penalty given to Lucic, and no one else in the Bruins dressing room either saw it or wanted to say anything about it. Lucic was not made available to speak to the media.
This game may have been just one of 82, in mid-October, but it was a chance for the Bruins to put that playoff series behind them and perhaps show they have solved their history of difficulties against the Canadiens.
In that sense, it was not just one of 82.
"We haven't played our best hockey against Montreal and we don't have the best record against them," Boston goalie Tuukka Rask said. "We want to fix that because we're in the same division and we're going to face them a bunch of times during the year and maybe in the playoffs. So we have to be better against them. But there was no revenge or anything like that on our minds. We just wanted to focus on our own game."
Julien said the Bruins made a number of mental mistakes that wound up costing them the game, but the biggest one may have been made by Lucic. The way the game was going after Simon Gagne scored his first goal for the Bruins, at 14:11 of the third period, it looked very much like Boston was on the verge of tying it up.
With the Bruins’ difficult start to the season, now at 2-4-0, Lucic's penalty could not have come at a worse time.