The Real Milan Lucic Stood up just in Time

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

When Nazem Kadri gave the Toronto Maple Leafs a 4-1 lead with 14:31 left in regulation of Monday's Game 7, Milan Lucic took a moment to reflect.

He probably thought about a lot in the moment or two he had to look up and see the Bruins' season was about to end in a first-round Game 7 at home - for the second straight season.

Lucic opened up after the game, after the Bruins' pieced together a frantic three-goal, third-period comeback, and Patrice Bergeron found a loose puck and an open corner of James Reimer's net and guided it in home to clinch the game, the series and a date with the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Lucic told reporters he wondered about firings and trades that may come. He and his three-year, $18 million deal that kicks in next season may be on the move, he thought. Will they trade me? Where will they trade? Calgary? I hate Calgary. Anywhere but Calgary. They wouldn't trade me to Buffalo, right? Not Buffalo. Vancouver? Ugh, I really don't want to play with Alex Burrows.

The list of potential moves, new faces and adjustments was just too long to think about. There were still 14 minutes and change to play. We can still do this, he thought. At that point, he may've been the only one of the 40 players in uniform, 17,545 in attendance and millions of others with an eye on a television that believed the game, the series and the Bruins season weren't finished.

There were others involved of course. Bergeron scored the game-tying and game-winning goals. Tuukka Rask made an impressive save on Matt Frattin's breakaway. But it was Lucic, the recent healthy scratch, that carried this Bruins team to an unlikely comeback on Monday night.

Lucic's game is difficult to pin down at times. He's enormous. He's strong. He has better puck skills than most realize. And he can move pretty quickly once he gets that frame all chugging in the same direction. These traits that make Lucic one of the game's best power forwards revealed themselves throughout Monday's game, even before the Bruins began the rally to save their season.

In the first period, Lucic's relentless work on the forecheck led to a desperate and misguided clear from Toronto's Cody Franson that put the puck on Matt Bartkowski's stick with a clear shooting lane, and David Krejci driving to screen Reimer.

The good Lucic, which won the Bruins a hockey game Monday night, also comes with a healthy dose of the bad Lucic. But it isn't the disengaged, hapless loafer that warranted a healthy scratch late in the regular season. It's the 6-foot-5 bully that knows there isn't a soul in this league that can handle him. The foolish roughing minor he took in the second period, as well as the probably-a-penalty-in-October shove that sent Carl Gunnarson flying into the boards, are signs that Lucic is engaged and playing with the dynamic balance of Jekyll and Hyde that so perfectly characterizes this team.

The good Lucic's work to gain the zone and find Nathan Horton unmarked in the right face-off circle to make it 4-2 with 11:42 left in regulation gave this team the belief Lucic alone had. Horton immediately skated by the bench. "That's one," he said as his teammates congratulated him and braced for a frantic end to the third period. Lucic really took over from there.

With the Bruins pressing hard and Rask on the bench for an extra skater, Lucic worked to the front of the net and swatted a rebound past Reimer. About 40 seconds later, he won a race with Toronto's James vanRiemsdyk in the right corner to keep the play alive and work the puck back to Jaromir Jagr. Moments later, Bergeron found the smallest of seams to Reimer's right to level the game and send the TD Garden into a frenzy.

Bergeron's role with this team isn't always glamorous, but he is, for all intents and purposes, the Bruins' Golden Boy. Every Golden Boy needs some help from his henchmen, though. Lucic played that part masterfully Monday night. He showed off every part of his game that makes him a dangerous player, as well as an enigma during his annual disppearances. He created goals, hit people and, on a couple occasions, did some pretty dumb things. He wasn't perfect for the 66:05 played on Monday night. But, for 11 minutes and 32 seconds of Monday's unforgettable night on Causeway Street, he was pretty damn close.

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