Boston Bruins left-winger Milan Lucic, shuffled temporarily down to the second line by coach Claude Julien, took this demotion as a sign to work harder and so he did in today’s game against the Nashville Predators, which the Bruins won 4-3 in a shootout.
Lucic and new linemates Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley started the game with a blistering tempo, tallying three shots on goal in the game’s very first shift. Later, he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a tying goal at 18:53 of the third period that made the TD Garden roar with excitement and sent the game into overtime.
Though the Bruins followed up that speedy first shift with a lot of quality effort and shots on goal, Predators goalie Pekka Rinne was in top form, exemplifying the play that got him nominated for the Vezina trophy last season. In net for Boston was last season’s actual Vezina winner, Tim Thomas. The Bruins were not able to get on the board until Boston was dinged for too many men on the ice with about five minutes to go in the first. During the penalty, Brad Marchand dug the puck out from the corner near Thomas, streaked up the ice, briefly lost possession of the puck, regained it, saw Patrice Bergeron approaching, passed to him and Bergeron then shot a wrister that eluded Rinne.
The second period was quieter in tone, although Boston registered ten shots on goal to Nashville’s seven. Thomas was not tested often and his first test of the period actually led to a Nashville goal. With the Preds on a power play following Adam McQuaid’s roughing penalty on Patric Hornqvist, Ryan Suter passed to his fellow defenseman Shea Weber. Weber then let off a blaster that, if clocked with a radar gun, might have been around the same speed as the shots he took in the All-Star skills competition. It beat Thomas and evened up the score.
In the beginning of the third, Daniel Paille scored after making the effort to free the puck from a tie-up on the boards. He passed to waiting linemate Shawn Thornton so he could relieve a little pressure and get in position. Thornton passed right back at the right time and Paille tucked it in just as Predators defenseman Kevin Klein pushed him, so his celebration looked like he was on a Slip and Slide.
Nashville surged with a Hornqvist goal that McQuaid and Andrew Ference watched as it went past Thomas. The play began with Rinne playing the puck, handing it off to Sergei Kostitsyn, who flew all the way into Boston’s zone and found Hornqvist for the wrist shot. Mike Fisher added another goal near the end of the third, casting a pall over the Garden as Bruins fans feared that all this effort would lead to another L.
The Bruins were given a late third period power play when Kostitsyn went off for tripping. After the puck was cleared down the ice, Zdeno Chara went to collect it and bring it back into the offensive zone. As Chara passed to Peverley in the neutral zone, Thomas left the net. Peverley attempted a shot that went wide but bounced back for Lucic to grab and shoot from a bad angle.
Following a mostly uneventful overtime period that had Nashville attempt three shots to Boston’s one, the shootout saw both Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron beat Rinne, Seguin with a forceful shot and Bergeron with one that trickled right through Rinne’s five-hole. Next up for the Bruins is the New York Rangers on Valentine’s Day, although Sunday is the Bruins’ Casino Night.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: The second star of the game, Lucic, with a goal, seven shots and about 18 minutes on the ice. He is now the only player in the NHL with 20 goals and more than 100 penalty minutes, too. If not for that goal, this would be a radically different post.