BUFFALO — There were just a few minutes left in the first period when Milan Lucic took a puck to the face on a clearing attempt by the Sabres’ Mark Pysyk. Lucic headed to the dressing room for treatment, but returned in the second period, just in time for a perfect feed from Jarome Iginla that resulted in Lucic’s second goal of the night.
It was, as Lucic later said, “just five” stitches up the right side of his nose. He said he “dodged a bullet.”
“When you get hit in the face like that, it’s never a good feeling, so it was nice to come out and have a good first shift in the second period and get a goal,” Lucic said. “I almost hurt myself even more when I crashed into the boards after that. It was nice to get one also when the crowd’s cheering when you get hit in the face. So it was nice to stick it to them that way.”
This is not the Lucic of last season, when he was ineffective and out of shape. This is a new Lucic, making his mark for the Bruins and his case to be a member of Team Canada at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February.
Eight games into the season, Lucic is making his case. After his two goals in a 5-2 win over Buffalo on Wednesday , Lucic leads the team with five goals and nine points. He had just seven goals in 46 games in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
And with Iginla, Lucic is finding a fruitful connection on a line that has certainly found its stride.
“It felt good tonight,” Iginla said. “Really for a while we’ve been getting some good chances. Each game we were getting opportunities and playing more time in the other team’s zone than ours. Those are all good.”
Iginla, still searching for his first goal of the season, notched his third assist (soon to become four) as he got the Bruins on the board against the struggling Sabres at 11:01 of the first. The winger shot from the high slot, but Lucic redirected the puck ever so slightly in front of the net, and it trickled past Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller.
After a lengthy delay, the goal was announced as Lucic’s fourth, not Iginla’s first.
Asked if he’d like to give the goal to Iginla, Lucic said, “Almost want to, for sure.”
Chad Johnson gets started
Bruins backup goaltender Chad Johnson allowed two goals in his first outing of the season. The first came off the skate of Buffalo’s Cody Hodgson at 8:21 on a power play. The second, a rather soft goal, came from Nikita Zadorov, the first of his NHL career. Buffalo had only scored 12 goals in 10 games coming into Wednesday.
“The first period I felt great,” Johnson said. “The second period there were some stretches without a lot of shots, then there were some flurries. So it was sort of a weird feeling for me today in the game, but it was kind of a good start I think. Something I can build off of for the next time I go in.”
Johnson stopped 14 of the 16 Buffalo shots, and said there was some rust in reading plays and situations in the second period, though he felt good in the first.
“It’s just nice to get the two points, kind of do my job and move on to the next one,” Johnson said.
Torey Krug breaks through
Torey Krug also scored twice, both in the third period, including an effort to muscle his way through the Sabres’ defense on his first goal of the night.
As Julien said, “A lot of it’s about determination, right? Sometimes those smaller guys are also hard to defend against. You can ask Zdeno [Chara] that same question.”