At first, it appeared Jarome Iginla had gotten his stick on the puck, tapping it past Columbus goaltender Curtis McElhinney. Upon review, Milan Lucic was credited with the goal instead of an assist.
That would normally be a good thing. And it was, though the resident Bruins stat geek was left slightly disappointed at his close call at the team’s second straight game with a Gordie Howe hat trick.
“It would have been nice to have gotten the Gordie, especially after [Zdeno Chara] got it,” Lucic said of Chara’s goal-assist-fight trio Friday. “But not going to complain with a goal over an assist.”
Nor was he going to complain with two of them, bringing his total to 11, and giving the Bruins the 3-1 win over the Blue Jackets at TD Garden Saturday. That win gave Boston points in each of its 10 home games in November. The Bruins are 9-0-2 in their last 11 home games, last losing in regulation on Causeway Street Oct. 26 to the Devils.
The Bruins were outstanding defensively, allowing just 14 shots on goal, the second straight game they have limited their opponent to fewer than 20.
“We were two steps behind,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “They were bigger, they were stronger, they were faster.”
Part of that was Lucic, who scored his first goal on the power play at 14:58 of the first after Patrice Bergeron opened the scoring at 9:02 of the period. Lucic’s goal came just 22 seconds after Ryan Johansen was penalized for hooking, as the winger redirected a point shot from Torey Krug. It was his first power-play goal in two seasons, his last coming on March 3, 2012.
Lucic scored his second 2:15 into the third, the slap shot needing a friendly bounce (though not help from Iginla).
“[I scored] Two goals without getting a real direct shot at the net,” Lucic said. “Just one I think they tipped it and it went off me and in. The second one they tipped it again, and it went up and over everyone and into the back of the net. Sometimes they go in like that. Fortunately I had some puck luck here tonight.”
But it wasn’t just that.
“I thought even [on Friday], I told him he was skating extremely well and he was doing the right things,” coach Claude Julien said. “I think the one thing I thought is that he was maybe gripping his stick a little bit tight there in certain areas and just to go out there and play.”
Lucic, who finished the night with a swollen chin and cuts along his nose, added the fight at 8:34 of the second period, tangling with Dalton Proust after the teams had been engaging in some pushing and shoving earlier in the game.
“Just one of those things that happens,” Lucic said. “It was really the first time I’ve actually been challenged since the [Joel] Rechlicz fight [in the preseason], and first willing combatant as well. I think before that the game was kind of getting a little chippy and so I think it calmed it down after that.”
But it was notable that the Bruins increased their physicality in recent games. As Chara said, “We have to be physical as a team and emotionally attached to those games, and that’s when we’re playing our best. That’s the identity.”
That physicality — the absence of which leaves the Bruins looking for “that spark,” as Chara put it — combined with the re-emergence of the team’s top two lines, has been crucial. Both lines went through a dip over the last few weeks, leaving the bottom-six forwards to pick up the slack.
But the top lines have been better of late.
“We had some good stretches this year, and then we’ve had a couple slow games,” Iginla said. “So we’re really trying to make a conscious effort to get back to moving and forechecking and trying to turn pucks over down there, trying to make it hard on the other team’s D and be hard around the front of the net, like Looch’s first goal.”
They were successful. And combined with a 14-save effort from backup goaltender Chad Johnson, the Bruins turned around a week that started with a game-tying goal by Pittsburgh with 0.3 left in regulation and a blowout loss to the Red Wings.
Since then, the Bruins have brought the emotion they were lacking in that debacle in Detroit, doing exactly what Julien had asked. As the coach put it, “You take a bad loss and you turn it into a positive thing.” He told his team that it could finish the week strong winning three of four games, and that was just what the Bruins did.
“We talked about carrying it over from [Friday’s] emotional game, and it was good that it was there here tonight,” Lucic said. “I think it was a full team effort from the goalie out. We talked about having a good, strong game before this little break we have, before the big game on Thursday coming up.
“We ended off on the right note. Other than that Detroit game, it was a pretty good week.”