BOSTON, MA – You could see the frustration on the faces of the David Krejci-Milan Lucic-Nathan Horton line over the past few weeks. The pressure of trying to find the back of the net was wearing on them – especially Lucic and Horton, who had scoreless streaks of 10 and eight games, respectively, entering Saturday afternoon’s tilt with the Washington Capitals.
The trio had talked all week about finding their north-south game, and in front of a raucous, St. Patrick’s Day weekend crowd at TD Garden, they did just that. Krejci, Lucic, and Horton all had three point games and led the Black & Gold to a 4-1 victory over the Caps.
Lucic and Horton got in on the forecheck all game long, using their big bodies to force Washington into turnovers, while Krejci was his usual play-making self.
“If I had those two guys [Lucic and Horton] playing against me and they’re playing at their best, I’d hate to be a defenseman on the other side,” said B’s Head Coach Claude Julien following the win. “You certainly want to slow those guys down to give your D a chance to move the puck.
“When you see big bodies like that coming at the speed that they come at, it certainly puts guys on their heels and that’s what creates turnovers. They get the puck, they get rid of it as quick as they can and we can’t really blame them for that. When we check properly, we turn pucks over.”
Lucic, who after practice on Friday talked about being more selfish and firing more pucks on net instead of passing, did the opposite on the B’s first two goals, and it paid off. The Bruins’ hulking winger went hard into the corner and picked up the puck off of a cross-ice dump from Horton.
No. 17 rounded the net and found a wide-open Horton in the slot where Lucic’s bash brother fired the puck past Caps’ goalie Michal Neuvirth to put the Bruins up, 1-0, at 14:12 of the first.
“When he’s on top of his game, we see tonight,” said Julien of Horton. “I thought he started coming around last game, the way he skated, you could see that his game was turning and going in the right direction.”
It was like deja vu just over three minutes later, when Lucic again went barreling into the corner and knocked Washington defenseman Jack Hillen off the puck. Lucic skated towards the back of the net, before, this time, finding Krejci out front. Krejci snapped one into the net to make it 2-0. Horton had the other assist.
At 8:02 of the second period, the trio continued their torrid play, this time with Horton and Krejci assisting on Andrew Ference’s first goal of the season.
Krejci carried the puck into the zone down the right wing. He then dished a pass over to Horton who was cutting through the slot, before No. 18 made a no-look, backhanded pass to Ference who was skating in from the blue line.
Ference launched a wrister past Neuvirth to put the B’s up 3-1.
With just 11 seconds to go in the second, Horton took on Caps’ center Matt Hendricks. The two had been battling all game and finally dropped the gloves, capping off a Gordie Howe hat trick for Horton.
“He did all over,” said Julien, when asked if Horton was more physical. “He skated well, he was strong on the puck. Look at the plays, if you watched the game, he made some great plays in tight and made some good passes. I thought his whole game was pretty good.”
The line’s final points came on Rich Peverley’s power-play goal at 2:41 of the third. Lucic couldn’t cash in on a point blank shot and Peverley whacked away at the rebound, finally getting it over the goal line to make it 4-1.
It was Lucic’s third assist of the game (tying a career high). Krejci also got an assist on the goal, for his 300th career point.
“We haven’t scored for a while, but I think our line played a lot better tonight,” said Horton. “Like Claude said, when you’re thinking you’re up and you’re making plays, you make more mistakes when you do that. Just get the puck deep. You saw that on every goal.”
“They showed exactly what we need to see from them on a more consistent basis,” added Julien. “They were skating the north-south type game, they were forechecking, being physical. Because of that they were turning pucks over, and not only that, they were strong on the puck, and they made their chances count.
“You want to keep that line going the way they have been tonight because they’re a big asset to our hockey club.”
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