DETROIT -- The Red Wings faithful stood and chanted proudly at Joe Louis Arena Thursday night. Their words: “Lucic sucks!”
For the better part of two periods, they were the smartest fans in hockey.
Yet after a concerning start to Game 4, some of the guys expected to perform finally did. Milan Lucic capped of a great play from Carl Soderberg by beating Jonas Gustavsson to tie the game 75 seconds into the third after the B’s had spotted the Red Wings the game’s first two goals.
The highlight of a night that seemed destined for lowlights may also serve as the line’s postseason coming-out party. With the puck along the wall in the offensive zone in overtime, a scrum formed of David Krejci battling Niklas Kronwall and Jarome Iginla battling Drew Miller.
Iginla eventually won the puck and sent a pass through his legs to Lucic, who kicked it to himself and sent a touch-pass to Krejci. With Iginla going to the net, Krejci skated to the top of the zone and sent it to Dougie Hamilton. By that point, Lucic was in front of the net and Iginla was moving near the faceoff dot, where he tipped Hamilton’s shot before it bounced off Danny DeKeyer's leg and sailed into the net to bring the Bruins a 3-2 win and a 3-1 series lead, one win away from the second round.
That was Krejci’s first point this postseason, and the Bruins sure needed it.
Heading into the third period of a game in which the Bruins should have been trailing by more than the 2-1 deficit they faced, Krejci’s line was a big part of what wasn’t going right as the Wings, playing in front of their backup goalie, were in position to send the teams’ first-round series back to Boston tied at two games apiece.
For a line that was so dominant a season ago in the postseason, Boston’s first line was offensively non-existent in the early going Thursday. The most notable thing they did through the first two periods was get scored on, as Pavel Datsyuk finally found the back of the net against Krejci’s line after failing to do so in Game 3.
After not showing up in Game 1 and showing promise in Game 2 in Boston, Games 3 and 4 were going to be tough for the Krejci trio. With Mike Babcock having the last change and rightfully fearing Patrice Bergeron, the Krejci line had to face Datsyuk both games, with Henrik Zetterberg also adding to the challenge as he returned for Game 4.
The primary objective for that line was to not allow any goals, but when you have the best postseason player of the last three seasons, a guy who scored 30 goals this season and the best power forward in hockey, it isn’t crazy to ask for a little offense.
“As a line, as far as production goes, it definitely hasn't been the best series for us, but going into the third period, we talked about being better and trying to impose our will and try to take the game over,” Lucic said after the win. “Obviously Carl makes a really good play to me in front of the net there and then Iggy with a big tip in overtime to get the game-winning goal.
“You want to get better as a series goes on, and we were able to do that in the third period as a line.”
Krejci has always been a rather reserved individual, but perhaps it’s the responsibility that comes with the ‘A’ he now wears that has kept him level-headed despite a suboptimal start on the stat sheet.
The 27-year-old center had said prior to the game, when he had no points through three games, that he was having “fun” facing the challenge of quieting Datsyuk rather than prioritizing his own offense. That doesn’t mean his line was doing a great job -- the Red Wings had the puck way more than the B’s when the Krejci line was out there -- but the bottom line is that Krejci wasn’t dwelling on his own lack of production, which probably helped as the better shifts began to come as the night went on.
“If we win and I have no points, it happens just like it happened today,” Krejci said. “It doesn't matter. I'm just glad we won tonight. In a playoff, you need different guys to step up at different times.
“I thought our line played pretty well today, especially in the second half of the game and overtime. It's nice to see that we can do it as well against guys like Dastyuk and Zetterberg. It was good to see and now we have a chance to finish it off at home.”
Game 1 was bad. Game 2 was encouraging, but a mixed bag. Game 3 contributed to a shutout, and Game 4 saw the lowest lows and the highest highs yet for Krejci’s line. Those highs and lows will come, but at the end of the day, Krejci prioritizes the final score.
And if he doesn’t have those points in this round that we’ve all become accustomed to seeing, that’s quite alright with Krejci -- so long as there is a next round in which to pursue that production.
“You learn over the course of your career -- seven years, it's about average in the league, but I think I have a lot of NHL playoff experience -- guys step up at different times in different rounds,” Krejci said. “I'm just trying to do my job this round and try to do everything I can to give our team a chance to win the game and the series. Maybe in other series, it's going to be different, but you have to take care of this one first. We've been doing a pretty OK job and we're up 3-1, so why change it now?"