BOSTON -- Since the Eastern Conference semifinals started, Boston Bruins winger Milan Lucic could feel his skates moving better. He was throwing his body around more. He was creating space for his linemates David Krejci and Nathan Horton, and they were capitalizing as both registered points in the first three games of the series. But no matter what Lucic did, he just couldn't score. Counting the regular season (in which he scored 30 goals), it had been 20 games heading into Game 4 on Friday night since the rugged winger had lit the lamp and the frustration was building.
Finally, with the Bruins on a power play midway through the first period of their 5-1 series-clinching win, Lucic took a nice feed from Horton and scored his first goal of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. Lucic wasn't finished though. After Johnny Boychuk scored 2:42 into the third period to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead, Lucic connected again at 15:03 for a huge insurance goal to make it 3-1.
"Feels good. It's been kind of frustrating, the last 20 games, not being able to put the puck in the back of the net. But tonight I was able to get open, and when I got those opportunities, both great plays by [Nathan] Horton to set me up, and when I got the opportunities it was nice to step up and score big goals," a smiling and relieved Lucic said following the game.
Lucic got to wear the Bruins MVP jacket after the game but he was even happier that he helped his team and the organization advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1992, when the Bruins were swept by Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who went on to win their second straight Stanley Cup.
"Last time I wore this jacket was a big win for us against the Devils when I got my 30th [goal]," he said. "This win, regardless of the two goals, this win is a huge win for our hockey club and our organization. I think it's been since 1992, since the Bruins have made the third round here. The last three years, we've been looking for this eighth win in the playoffs, to get into the third round, and we were happy to get the job done tonight."
Throughout his scoring drought, Lucic said that his teammates kept his spirits up as much as they could and reassured him that the goals would come.
"My teammates, especially my linemates with [David] Krejci and [Nathan] Horton, we've been able to create so much chemistry here," Lucic said. "They always have my back, and even for them, times were tough this year. I had to lift them up, and just tell them to relax, and that was the same sort of thing. They had my back, and they just told me, 'It's gonna come. Just keep sticking with it.' And I tried my hardest not to get frustrated. There was a time there when I was really frustrated, but right now, obviously, it feels good to step up and help the team win a big game. And moving forward, you want to keep pushing for more.
"I'm sure you guys noticed, it almost seemed like it wasn't fun for me these last couple games," Lucic said. "And that's where it comes to my teammates having my back and telling me to just stick with it. I started having fun again, I just relaxed and got into those areas where I scored a lot of goals this year. 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. And I'm sure our fans really appreciate it."
Veteran forward Mark Recchi said he knew the goals would come for Lucic and was glad his teammate was able to get the monkey off his back. He was also happy with the way the team rallied around the struggling winger.
"That's what good teams do," Recchi said of the support Lucic received. "He's a good player for us. He's a big, physical presence. The puck wasn't going in the net for him. He started to show signs of getting his legs under him again, and when you haven't scored for a while you tend to get tight. He's a young kid and hopefully now he's found a really good time to start getting hot. 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."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for his next Bruins mailbag here.