BOSTON -- There were grins all around the Bruins’ locker room from an assortment of sources Thursday night following their thrilling 2-1 win against the league’s point leader.
Grins from Milan Lucic, who interrupted his own media session in front of his locker room stall by letting out a howl as, across the room, on an oversized projector screen showed David Ortiz launching a two-run blast to put the Red Sox ahead of the Cardinals in Game 2 of the World Series (they ended up losing, 4-2).
Grins from his linemates, Jarome Iginla and David Krejci, as they tried to recall the last time they had ever experienced an ending like the one that had just unfolded -- Krejci redirecting an Adam McQuaid wrister from the point with 0.8 seconds left to win the game after being outshot 39-17, including 16-3 in the first period.
In the moment, neither could recall a similar game-winner. But there was plenty of praise around the room for the diligence that led to the goal, specifically that of Lucic.
The hard-charging Lucic -- who admitted he had “no idea” how much time was left on the clock -- carried the puck over the blue line, took a bump from San Jose’s Joe Thornton, then poked the puck away from Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the corner. From there, he guided it up the boards to McQuaid, who fired as Krejci extended his stick in the low slot to chip a five-holer through Antti Niemi.
“He’s better than I even... I knew he was a very, very good player. His battle is there, but his speed, I just think he’s getting quicker and quicker,” Iginla said of Lucic. “You don’t always want to dump it, but you dump it and he must get it 90 percent of the time and create something out of it.
“Just like that last goal. He created it on a rush, went in, put it in for himself, went around, turned around, turned it up, gave it up to... It gives us a chance to get to the front of the net, which Krej did, and I’m going back. He definitely creates a lot of space for all of his linemates.”
Elsewhere, there were congratulatory grins around for Iginla, who notched the first goal of his short Bruins career at 18:48 of the second period. Krejci intercepted the puck in the neutral zone and flicked it toward the boards, where Lucic tapped it back up to the blue line blindly and Dennis Seidenberg fired a hard wrister toward Niemi. Iginla poked the rebound through Niemi’s pads, the loose puck taking a favorable bounce off the netminder’s right skate for the 1-0 advantage.
That marked the 531st goal for the former two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner, who is now 1-3-4 in the last three games and a plus-6 through the first nine. It also comes a night after Iginla got oh-so-close to his first goal, with Buffalo’s Ryan Miller chasing away his soft roller before it crossed the line, a save that was upheld after video review.
“It’s been longer than I would’ve liked, but it sure felt good to get it here and to get it at home and it being a tight game, and obviously it was a good bounce,” Iginla said. “It wasn’t exactly how I envisioned it ... but at this point you take anything or anytime; actually you take any of them, but it was a good bounce. It was a tough game and I thought as a group we got better after the first period. And San Jose is playing very well right now so it feels really good all around.”
Said Bruins head coach Claude Julien of Iginla: “I think it’s deserving and he should have had one a long time ago the way he’s played. But it’s nice to see him get that goal and get rewarded for all the hard work he’s done since the start of the season.”
Through the first nine games, the top line of Iginla, Lucic and Krejci has accounted for more than 50 percent of the team’s points, going a combined 8-16-25 and a plus-17.
At 36 years old, Iginla is coming to the tail end of his career, while his two linemates are just coming into the apex of theirs. But thus far Iginla has more than proven his worth, boosting his linemates with veteran net-front instincts and keeping the mood loose in the locker room with his affable personality.
For now, the grins are infectious.