Milan Lucic, the Boston Bruins' hulking winger, a guy who looks like he was born with shoulder pads built into his skin, hasn't had the easiest of seasons, but his game-winning goal on Monday will do wonders in making his frustration go away. Lucic's tally with 2:57 left gave the Bruins a 3-2 win in Game 2 and a 2-0 series lead heading back to Philadelphia.
After a breakout season last year, when Lucic scored 17 goals and 42 points for the Bruins while gaining the reputation of being one of the biggest, most bruising hitters in the league, the 21-year-old's body all of a sudden began to fight against him. Suffering back-to-back injuries -- first to his finger and then a sprained ankle -- he missed 32 games in the first three months. With the injuries went his hopes of playing in the Olympics in his hometown Vancouver (which, of course, was a bit of a long shot to begin with) or playing in the Winter Classic, which the Bruins hosted at Fenway Park on New Year's Day. It couldn't have been easy to see the opportunities slip away while he waited for his body to heal.
There won't be any more wasted chances for Lucic or the Bruins now. With another tight Bruins-Flyers game knotted at 2-2 late in the third period, the winger saw a bouncing puck land right in front of him in the high slot. A bit like the puck found Marc Savard in overtime two nights ago in the Bruins' 5-4 win in Game 1, Lucic just happened to be in exactly the right spot -- that is, except facing the wrong direction. But with his back to his target, he brought his stick back as he swiftly turned around and unleashed a hard shot that beat Philadelphia goalie Brian Boucher, earning the first playoff game-winning goal of his career.
The Bruins are beginning to find a rhythm as the series shifts to Philadelphia that seemed to elude them throughout the regular season. Even without their leading goal-scorer Marco Sturm, who had 22 goals before tearing his ACL and MCL on the first shift of Game 1, Boston is finding the production they so sorely lacked as the league's lowest-scoring team. And they're getting it from some slightly surprising places. Mark Recchi, 42 years young, is a prime example of how hockey smarts can make up for whatever the body might lose with age. Like Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, who at 35 is still easily among the top five defensemen in the league, Recchi plays with his head more than his legs, a great boon for the Bruins.
And then there is Miroslav Satan, the man whose name launched a thousand puns. The 35-year-old winger, who was still searching for work as the new decade rolled around, has been possessed by the playoff spirit. After signing with Boston in January, Satan saw limited ice time and scored nine goals and 14 points in 38 games with the Bruins (their record in those games, by the way, was an eerie 16-16-6); in just eight games during the playoffs, he's banged in four goals and five assists, and is riding a three-game goal streak. With 81 playoff games under his belt, Satan has more postseason experience than any Bruin not named Recchi, and it shows. During the beginning of the overtime period in Game 1, Satan threw four quality shots at Boucher in the first 2:12. It was a wonder when at least one of them didn't eke in.
This is not to say that the Bruins have been dominating the Flyers or tilting the ice in their favor. Philadelphia has been surprisingly resilient in this series, despite missing top scorers Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne. Danny Briere and Mike Richards have willed their way into scoring areas and carried the offense for the last two games. Each picked up his fourth goal of the playoffs, and Briere earned an assist. But they need help from the rest of their team if the Flyers expect to advance. Claude Giroux, who had four goals and six points against New Jersey, hasn't come up with much against Boston; meanwhile Daniel Carcillo, the rock star rapscallion, has continued being a thorn on the ice. But against New Jersey, he at least contributed two goals, including the Game 3 overtime winner. In 11:36 Monday night, he was -2, while alleging he was bit by Savard in a scrum.
Without a win in their home barn Wednesday, the Flyers might as well become the Bruins' figurative chew toy.