The door to the Bruins’ bench near center ice at TD Garden swung wide open to receive Milan Lucic after he skated a scoreless power-play shift in the first period of Monday night’s 3-2 shootout victory over the Maple Leafs.
As he came off the ice, Lucic was steaming mad after missing several opportunities. So before he sat down, Lucic took out his frustrations on the door, repeatedly opening it and slamming it shut.
The door never stood a fighting chance against the agitated Lucic.
But where did his overheated emotions come from?
“Well, I mean, two pucks went through my feet and when the puck came down to me, it jumped over my stick,’’ Lucic said. “It was getting really frustrating these last couple games where everything was almost like I was an inch ahead or an inch behind, a step behind.
“It was why I felt like I wasn’t getting any, not even shots on net or shots on goal, but not even any opportunities,’’ he said. “It was one of those things where sometimes you show some emotion and you try to vent it out.’’
After a 15-game goal drought, which resulted in his demotion to Boston’s third line with Rich Peverley and Jordan Caron, Lucic eventually did shed his frustrations when he tallied the Bruins’ first goal at 9:49 of the second period.
It helped turn the tide of the game — and simmered Lucic’s heated emotions — after Toronto had taken a 2-0 lead with 8:01 elapsed in the period.
“My game is pretty simple,’’ said Lucic, who is most effective when he is moving his feet and carrying the puck into the zone with speed, as he did on his fifth goal of the season. “It doesn’t really matter who I play with, I’m expected to play a certain way and I play the same way no matter who I play with.’’
Lucic got an opportunity in his wheelhouse after Caron won a puck battle along the boards and sent it out to Peverley in the neutral zone. Peverley fed it to Lucic, who churned his skates and carried a considerable amount of size and speed into the zone, where he swept in from the right side on Toronto netminder James Reimer and tucked it in five-hole from the short side.
“It was a great play by Jordy to beat the pinch there and Pevs just gave me the pass,’’ Lucic said. “I just wanted to take it to the net and I was able to finish it off.’’
When he did score, at long last, Lucic felt “a huge monkey get off my back,’’ he said. He no longer felt burdened by the weighty expectations of those who questioned whether he was capable of being as productive as he was the last two years with the Bruins, when he scored 25-plus goals each season.
“You try not to let your frustrations weigh on your teammates,’’ he said. “You try to be positive, but it was definitely coming to a point where it was hard to [be positive], and you get to a point where you’re second-guessing yourself.’’
Lucic took five shots, landing two on net.
“Usually it’s not a pretty one that goes in that gets you out of your slump,’’ he said. “But you look at the goal there, I think the big thing was I was moving my feet on the play and I was able to create a lot of speed and when I move my feet, I give myself a lot more opportunities.’’
Bruins coach Claude Julien agrees that Lucic is at his most dangerous when moving his feet.
“With Milan, it’s all about his feet,’’ Julien said. “When his feet are moving and when he uses his speed, not just on that goal, but a couple of other times there, he really took the puck to the outside and tried to cut back in.
“Either he’s going to get those chances, or he’ll create some power plays for us, by getting them to drag him down. But he’s big, he’s strong, and when he uses his speed he’s certainly that much more of a player.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.