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Bruins' rally vs. Panthers was team effort

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Bruins edge Panthers

Milan Lucic's third-period goal lifted the Bruins past the Panthers 3-2.

BOSTON -- There are certain plays during a season that may appear subtle but turn out to be quite significant.

If you watched the Boston Bruins' 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday at TD Garden, your initial reaction was probably that Milan Lucic's game-winning goal at 18:51 of the third period was the key moment. His 18th goal of the season helped the Bruins earn a crucial two points. But it was the effort of defenseman Adam McQuaid that quite possibly saved Boston’s season.

With 3:38 remaining in the third and the game tied 2-2, the Panthers created a scramble in front of the Bruins' net. Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask (22 saves) was sprawled out of position when McQuaid dropped to his knees and kept a would-be goal out of the net, before Rask covered it.

Just over two minutes later, Lucic scored the game-winner.

Too many times this season that type of game-saving effort has been missing. Too many times the Bruins have allowed their opponent to snatch away a victory. At a time when the Bruins couldn’t afford for that to happen again, McQuaid’s all-out effort proved very significant, especially if Boston does earn a postseason berth.

“Adam doesn’t always get enough credit for his defensive play, his physical play, and he’s not always on the stat sheet. But he’s a really good defender, a real good shot-blocker and he’s really good around the net, and that’s why he was on the ice at the end,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien.

During that scrum, Rask had no idea where the puck was. And when he finally saw it, he tried to clear it with his stick, but instead knocked it toward the goal line. Fortunately for the Bruins, McQuaid’s instincts kept the puck out of the net.

“It was nice goaltending by him,” Rask said with a smile.

While the Bruins were relieved they rebounded from a horrible second period and finished with two goals in the third en route to victory, the Ottawa Senators defeated the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in a shootout on Tuesday. The Bruins are just three points ahead of the Senators.

“We wanted to get back to playing desperate and hungry hockey,” Lucic said. “In the second period, our emotion level dropped and it just seemed like we went back to the old habits in the second, and it cost us two goals. Then we got back on it in the third period, and it gives us a big win.”

To a man, the Bruins talked about the importance of a 60-minute effort, especially with their season hanging in the balance. And the Senators simply won’t go away.

For weeks, actually months, the Bruins have been trying to secure the second wild-card spot in the East. With a road win Thursday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the Bruins can tie the Red Wings for seventh in the Eastern Conference. However, the Red Wings still have a game in hand.

“We try not to look at the standings too much, because we have a job to do here and we still have five games left, and they’re important games,” Rask said. “We’re trying to focus on our game, and once the season is over, we’ll look at the standings and see where we stand.”

After Boston’s 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday, Julien was asked about Lucic’s two-goal effort in that game. Instead of focusing on Lucic’s effort, the coach decided to credit the entire team effort for the impressive victory.

On Tuesday, Julien was a little more willing to talk about Lucic and his linemates, David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner. That line provided both the tying and winning goals in the third period against the Panthers.

“That line has probably been our most productive line in the month of March, a young line that has a guy that feels like he wants to lead them," Julien said of Lucic, "and he has done a good job of that. He has kept saying over the years that he wants to be a part of that leadership group, and he’s just showing it right now that he’s very capable of doing it.”

Pastrnak had a goal and an assist Tuesday and now has five points in the past three games. Lucic has three goals and one assists in the past three games. And Spooner has two goals and three assists in the past four.

“Everything seems to be clicking right now,” Lucic said. “We’re supporting each other well, we’re coming up the ice together well, we’re finding each other and we’re also getting some puck luck, as well. When you’re working the right way and putting the work in, you tend to get luck on your side. We’ve just got to keep it going and try not to get things too high and try to stay even-keeled and keep contributing to this team’s success.”

With only five games remaining in the regular season, Boston is in the driver’s seat, but the Bruins need to continue their push and provide those subtle yet significant plays.