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Monday, March 25, 2013

Milan Lucic Is Boston's X-Factor

It's not hard to see that when Milan Lucic is playing his physical game and scoring goals, the Bruins are a different team. It only took 14 games but he finally scored another goal (his first since February 24 at Florida) as Claude Julien reconfigured his struggling forward lines and put Looch on the third with Rich Peverley and Jordan Caron. Tonight at TD Garden, Boston (21-7-3) beat Toronto (17-12-4) 3-2 in a shootout.

The two points was particularly important for a couple reasons: 1) The Bruins had fallen behind 2-0, 2) a win tied them with Montreal for first-place in the Northeast Division and 3) the Maple Leafs had beaten the B's 3-2 on Saturday night.

After a scoreless first period, Toronto took a 2-0 lead on Joffrey Lupul's one-timer on a power-play at 2:04 of the second period. After a deflection in the slot, Jake Gardiner found Lupul for the goal. The Maple Leafs doubled their lead at 8:01 after blocking a shot then getting a breakaway as Boston's defensive pair of Aaron Johnson and Andrew Ference were left in the dust. Nikolai Kulemin beat Rask, who once again had no chance as his teammates left him out to dry.

Lucic broke his personal funk at 9:49 with a pretty backhander after a pass through the seams of Toronto's defense by Peverley. Caron had the other assist on Lucic's fifth goal of the season. Haha only one more and he'll catch Daniel Paille and Zdeno Chara. Patrice Bergeron delivered the clutch tying goal with 9:24 left in the third period. Dougie Hamilton took advantage of a bad line change by Toronto to go behind their net and he found Bergeron for a backhander (his 9th goal of the season).

Not much happened in overtime but that's alright since the second and especially the third periods were barnburners which is not something that I often say. Tyler Seguin and Bergeron scored in the shootout while Rask (23 saves; 15-4-3) stopped Nazem Kadri and Kulemin. The B's improved to 4-1 in shootouts this season while the Leafs fell to 0-4. Boston won the season series with Toronto 3-1.

There is basically a month left in the regular season (17 games) so it doesn't get much bigger than Wednesday night (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network) as the Canadiens (20-6-5) come to TD Garden. Before that, the Habs are in Pittsburgh tomorrow night as they try to snap the Penguins' 12-game win streak. Good luck with that. Regardless of how they do there, Wednesday will be for first-place in the Northeast Division.

UPDATE 3/26: Today the Bruins signed defenseman Matt Bartkowski to a one-year extension (don't ask me why) and they signed University of Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Chris Casto to an entry-level contract.

UPDATE 3/27: This afternoon the B's claimed Senators left wing Kaspars Daugavins (1 goal, 2 assists, -7 in 17 games). He's best known as the clown that tried that stupid spin-o-rama in the shootout against Boston on March 11 in Ottawa. He might be a bum but I guarantee that he's better than Jay Pandolfo who is extremely lucky to still be playing in the NHL.

Another move today by the B's was that they called up defenseman Torey Krug from Providence. He has put up great numbers (10 goals, 24 assists) there this season in 55 games. Johnny Boychuk (foot) was placed on IR.

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