Bruins continue slick play
EDMONTON, Alberta — Here in the prairies, the preferred meat is Alberta beef. But during this three-game Western Canada swing, it’s been all about 220 pounds of Vancouver prime.
Last night, Milan Lucic, looking more like fellow British Columbian Cam Neely every night, grabbed the game by the collar and imposed his will on the Oilers. On Boston’s first two goals, Lucic barged into the real estate above the Edmonton crease and stated, in his not-so-subtle manner, that the space was all his.
By engaging goalie Devan Dubnyk and the Edmonton defensemen with his presence, Lucic opened up space for Michael Ryder and Nathan Horton to wipe out a 1-0 Edmonton lead.
With Lucic leading the way, the Bruins scored a 3-2 win before 16,839 at Rexall Place to sweep their Western Canadian tour. They are 5-0-0 on their six-game road trip, which concludes tomorrow at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
On Saturday, Lucic scored the deciding goal in the Bruins’ 3-1 win over Vancouver. He was stationed in front of Roberto Luongo, in perfect position to shovel in the rebound of a Dennis Seidenberg shot. Earlier in the night, Lucic helped open up space for a Horton strike on Luongo.
“If you look at the last game and this game, the goal I scored and the goal Horty scored, he was in front of the net with traffic both times and we were able to get the two goals,’’ Lucic said. “Tonight, I was in front of the net creating traffic, and we were able to score. Those are the ways most goals are scored. We’ve got to keep that up if we want to keep scoring goals. It’s great. All three games here, we’ve been able to score goals against three pretty good teams.’’
In the last three games, Lucic has three goals and three assists.
“It’s because he’s out West,’’ coach Claude Julien said, with a laugh, of Lucic’s recent net-front domination. “We’ve been encouraging him to go there. When you watch practice, you see him working on tipping pucks and banging those away. He’s starting to feel more and more comfortable in that area. It’s something that I don’t think he’s done that often in his career. It’s something he’s growing into. I’m liking that part of his game.’’
In the third, when Jim Vandermeer protested Lucic’s swipe at a puck under Dubnyk’s right pad, the powderkeg exploded. After both combatants’ gloves went flying, the two chuckers landed big-time bombs in one of Lucic’s longer slugfests.
“It was up there,’’ said Lucic, bearing a scrape on his forehead for his troubles. “The one with [Jarkko] Ruutu a couple years ago was long as well. It was good to get in one like that again. It’s been a while since I had a real good fight like that. Looking at all the fights, they haven’t been as entertaining as that one. So it’s nice to get in one like that.’’
In the first, Lucic screened Dubnyk on an Adam McQuaid shot. McQuaid’s shot never got through, but with the Oilers busy with Lucic, Ryder flung the puck into the net at 15:30 to tie the game at 1-1.
The Bruins grabbed the lead late in the first. This time, Lucic engaged Jason Strudwick in front of the net and opened up space. David Krejci dished the puck to Horton, and with Dubnyk out of position, the right wing found the back of the net at 18:39 to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
It was another in-your-face effort from Horton, the ex-Panther who’d been prone to too many stretches of irrelevance earlier this season. In the first, after Theo Peckham decked Krejci, Horton challenged the Edmonton defenseman. They engaged in a brief scrap. But it was long enough for Horton to do some heavy damage to Peckham. He clobbered Peckham with a thunderous right to end the fight, and Peckham sat out the rest of the game.
Horton and Lucic combined for 10 shots. During the trip, they have played with power, speed, skill, and nastiness to form a lethal No. 1 line with Krejci centering the thump-first bookends.
“He’s been playing with an edge the last few games,’’ Julien said of Horton. “That makes a big difference in his game. I like the way he’s been playing lately. Hopefully that continues. We talk about the timing of players playing well. This time of year, you want your players to start pushing hard. He’s doing that.’’
Rich Peverley scored his first goal as a Bruin to give his new club a 3-1 lead at 19:08 of the second. After playing give-and-go with Ryder, Peverley took a return pass and cut through the crease. He faked backhand, then pulled the puck to his forehand. With Dubnyk nowhere in sight, Peverley had an easy tap-in.
“I thought he was really good tonight,’’ Julien said of Peverley (18:07 workload, 8 for 13 on the draw), who trailed only Krejci in ice time among Bruins forwards. “With the winner, it was nice to see him do that. I thought that line played really well tonight.’’
Tuukka Rask allowed a third-period goal at 3:14 to Gilbert Brule. But Rask had to face only 17 total shots to earn the win.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.