BOSTON -- Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic has always been one of those players who can seemingly will his team to victory when he is at the absolute peak of his game.
Left Wing - BOS
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 4
SOG: 14 | +/-: 3
Lucic's combination of skill and physicality has made him the perfect Bruins-type player. He did a little bit of everything in leading Boston to a five-game series victory against the Detroit Red Wings
in their Eastern Conference First Round series, which ended with Boston's 4-2 win Saturday at TD Garden.
After a slow start to the series, Lucic got into gear in Game 4 on Thursday, when he scored the game-tying goal early in the third period. Lucic was also among the many bodies in front of the net when linemate Jarome Iginla scored the game-winning goal in overtime.
In Game 5, Lucic put the Bruins ahead 3-1 at 4:27 of the third period with a goal from right in front of the net set up by defenseman Torey Krug. Seconds earlier, Lucic had set up center Carl Soderberg for a similar scoring opportunity that was thwarted by the quick footwork of Red Wings goaltender Jonas Gustavsson.
"Just because you miss a chance, you don't want to let it frustrate you," Lucic said. "So you got to have the mindset to keep pushing, and we were able to do that and [Krug] made a great play and I was able to get a big goal there that ended up being the game-winner."
It appears Lucic finally has this first-round-of-playoffs thing figured out. He scored two goals in his rookie season in a seven-game loss against the Montreal Canadiens in 2008. He failed to score a first-round goal in any of the next four seasons and had 10 assists in first-round games.
Lucic showed signs of life against the Toronto Maple Leafs last spring with two goals and nine points in seven games; he and linemates David Krejci and Nathan Horton were dominant. He played well against Detroit despite a slight slump from linemates Krejci and Jarome Iginla. Krejci had two assists and Iginla had two goals (one into an empty net) and two assists. In fact, all three of Lucic's goals came in the midst of a line change and Krejci wasn't on the ice for any of them.
Lucic's game might have hit a lull after he scored in Game 2, but from Game 4 on he was a beast.
"I mean I think I just started, just worked on, just blocked everything out and just started moving my feet more," he said about his turnaround. "And I think that's what created the chances for me and opportunities was just getting my feet moving and getting myself in better areas and better situations and kind of taking the hesitation out. So once you stop over-thinking things I think the confidence starts to kick in and the instincts start to kick in, so I think that's what happened."
This was Iginla's first season with Boston. He played with Lucic from the first day of training camp and each had a fine season; Iginla scored 30 goals and Lucic had 24. But this is the first time Iginla got an up-close look at Lucic in the postseason, and he was impressed.
"He definitely makes his mark," Iginla said. "He's been strong all series, but I thought from halfway through last game, he turned it up a whole other level. I thought he started taking over about halfway through last game. He started controlling the play, the puck was always with him, he was taking two guys out in the corner and he carried that over to [Saturday] too. He's a very big guy and he's strong. We all know that. But he has great hands and vision and he's a quick player too. He's a lot to contain."
The Red Wings couldn't do it. The Canadiens, Boston's longtime rival, will try in the next round.