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Lucic picks optimal moment to end drought

by Shawn P. Roarke

BOSTON -- Milan Lucic didn't even try to lie.

Yes, he knew it had been 20 games since he had scored a goal. Yes, he knew it was March 22 -- a stretch of almost 50 days -- since he had scored a goal. Yes, he knew his Bruins were lucky to be in the position they were without their 30-goal scorer facing one of the most frustrating droughts of his career.

"It's been kind of frustrating, the last 20 games, not being able to put the puck in the back of the net," he said, breaking the athlete's cardinal rule of never admitting to frustration.

Actually, it would have been hard to deny his emotions, considering they were visible to anyone who watched closely after Lucic opened the scoring with a power-play goal -- Boston's first 5-on-4 goal of the postseason -- at the 12:02 mark of a game Boston would go on to win 5-1 to close out the Philadelphia Flyers in a stunning four-game sweep of this Eastern Conference Semifinal series Friday night at TD Garden.

Clearly, a huge weight had been lifted off the power forward's shoulders as the red light behind Philadelphia goalie Sergei Bobrovsky burned bright and his teammates mobbed him.

"Yeah, it was obviously exciting," Lucic said. "It was the second round of the playoffs with a chance to close them out. Obviously, like I said, it's a monkey off my back for me. And also, it's a goal to come one step closer to moving to that next round."

Boston now moves on to the Eastern Conference Finals, the first time since 1992 that the organization has been this far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Lucic enters the impending best-of-7 matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning with renewed confidence.

"He's a young kid and hopefully now he's found a really good time to start getting hot," veteran Boston forward Mark Recchi said. "He's been a great teammate to everybody else this year. When guys are struggling or they're fighting to score goals, what good teams do is find ways to help him and take that pressure off of him."

That is exactly what Boston has done with Lucic this spring, sheltering him as much as possible. Yes, he has struggled, but the team has won regardless. That has allowed Lucic to find his way out of the goal-scoring abyss without quite as much pressure as he would normally face.

"He's been close," fourth-line center Gregory Campbell said. "He's set up a couple of overtime goals, so he has been doing his job. He hasn't been scoring, but he's done the little things that help -- intangibles. But it's nice for him to break out with a couple of goals in a big game. That line has been extremely good for us.

"He's hard on himself, but it's the playoffs right now and we've been winning. It's nice to get those goals, but his linemates have been scoring and we have been getting goals from other guys. The playoffs are about different guys stepping up every night; tonight was his night. As far as the frustration goes, he expects himself to score, but he has been doing other things to contribute."

Now Lucic appears ready to score again.

His second goal of the night, which made it 3-1 with 4:57 to play, came on a breakaway in which Lucic showed the gifts that have allowed him to score 64 goals in his first four NHL seasons. After Nathan Horton shoveled a clearing pass into open ice, Lucic used his speed to out-race the Philadelphia defense. Then, he used his silky soft hands -- at least for a big man -- to do a little shake-and-bake move to fool Bobrovsky before flicking the puck casually into the net for what can only be called a goal-scorer's goal.

"I started having fun again, I just relaxed and got into those areas where I scored a lot of goals this year," Lucic said. "It was a lot of fun, it was fun to be a part of this game tonight, and obviously to score those goals at home and win this series at home makes it even better. I'm sure our fans really appreciate it."

They do, but they also appreciated the sight of their leading goal scorer in the regular season once again remembering how to score when it counts most -- almost as much as Lucic enjoyed the revival.

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