Lucic started it but they couldn’t finish
Milan Lucic was prepared to embrace the opportunity Game 7 presented after the Bruins had squandered a 3-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Flyers.
Lucic, who scored with one minute remaining in the Bruins’ Game 6 loss in Philadelphia, said he would have no nerves about playing a deciding seventh game on home ice.
Lucic seized upon his opportunities, recording the first multigoal game of his playoff career with a pair of first-period tallies that spotted the Bruins a 3-0 lead.
After Michael Ryder scored on a rebound of a Zdeno Chara blast at 5:27, Lucic had the sellout crowd of 17,565 at the Garden roaring with his back-to-back goals. The first came on the power play at 9:02 off a pretty centering pass by Dennis Wideman. The second one Lucic created himself. He worked the puck out of the defensive zone and created a two on one with Miroslav Satan, then finished with a hard wrist shot past Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton at 14:10.
But Lucic’s contributions went for naught in last night’s mind-numbing 4-3 loss to the Flyers, who joined the 1942 Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders as the only teams in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.
“Tonight’s game went how the series went,’’ Lucic said. “We played not to win, but we played not to lose.’’
Lucic scored his fourth and fifth goals of the playoffs (giving him 10 for his career).
“We had a golden opportunity here and didn’t get the job done,’’ said Lucic, who had three shots, one hit, and one blocked shot in 17:18 of ice time. “You’ve got to credit [the Flyers] for staying in there. They never died. We had opportunities to make it 4-1, but we didn’t capitalize. We just sat back, we didn’t keep going. That’s why we lost.’’
When the final horn sounded, the Garden crowd filled the building with boos and littered the ice with towels, plastic bottles, and even some Bruins jerseys. The projectiles kept coming as Lucic, second behind Shawn Thornton, made his way through the handshake line.
“I mean, if I was them, I’d be disappointed too,’’ said Lucic. “What kind of reaction do you expect from them? If the roles were reversed and we were in Philly right now and we won coming back 3-0, I’d expect the exact same reaction. So, I don’t blame them for their reaction at all.’’
Asked what he saw on the too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty that resulted in Simon Gagne’s power-play tally at 12:52 of the third period, Lucic said, “I saw two centermen out there and I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ Obviously, something happened and there was a miscommunication. We were trying to get off before we got caught and we got caught.’’
It gave the Flyers a scoring opportunity that was too good to be true.
“You know, we rose up to the occasion of the challenge to start off the game,’’ Lucic said. “We were going at ’em, and we kept going at ’em at the start of the game, but just because we were up, 3-0, doesn’t mean the game is over. Not much more to say, obviously. They came at us and they were relentless and they did what they needed to do to win the game and win the series.’’
It resulted in a stunning end to the game, the series, and the Bruins’ season.
“Obviously, it’s going to be a bitter taste in your mouth all summer,’’ Lucic said.
“At some point you got to try to get over it. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but hopefully we can take some things out of this and we can learn a real valuable lesson from this, if we can. You can’t take anything for granted at all.
“Everyone in this room, obviously, is going to have that bitter taste in their mouth,’’ said Lucic as he scanned a somber dressing room. “Hopefully everyone uses it to come out hungry and work even harder and push for more at the start of next season.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.