DETROIT -- Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla were Boston's most consistent line during the regular season, but they haven't been at their best in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It took that trio 11 periods against the Detroit Red Wings to finally produce offensively in a big moment. The Bruins erased a two-goal deficit and finished with a 3-2 overtime win to take a 3-1 series lead over the Red Wings. Lucic, who scored a goal in Boston's 4-1 win in Game 2, notched the game-tying goal on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena, before Iginla netted the game-winning tally at 13:32 of overtime.
That line produced the game winner by inflicting its force and ability against the Red Wings. Iginla and Krejci won the puck battles in the corners and along the wall, while Lucic created havoc in front.
Prior to Thursday's win, Boston's top line had combined for only three points in the first three games of this series. Iginla had two assists and Lucic the one goal. Krejci was held pointless. After the overtime victory, all three were pleased with the way they were able to bounce back and finally contribute. It was the type of strong finishing performance that can jump-start more offense.
"I think so and I hope so," Iginla said. "It felt good. It was a tough start. They were good and we're battling against [Pavel] Datsyuk and [Henrik] Zetterberg. They're good and they're going to get chances and they got a goal against us, but as a line it felt good to kind of keep working through it."
In Game 4, the Bruins' top trio had a tough first period and was on the ice for Detroit's second goal of the game. Their line was being outworked and outplayed until Lucic led the charge.
Maybe the chants of "Lucic sucks" got him going.
The Bruins opened the third period trailing by a goal, but were able to tie the game at 2-2 when Lucic scored his second of this series at 1:15. While his linemates were changing on the fly, Lucic stayed on the ice and broke to the net as teammate Carl Soderberg chased down the puck in the Detroit zone. He fed Lucic, who beat Red Wings goalie Jonas Gustavsson to the 5-hole.
"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. "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."
In the Bruins' locker room during the second intermission, Lucic told his teammates to stay calm and make sure Detroit didn't score the game's next goal. It was clear at the start of the third that Lucic was on a mission. He was skating stronger and winning battles.
"He did a great job," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand. "He's one of our big leaders and he comes up big in big situations. Tonight, he got a huge goal there to tie it up. He's a force and a great guy to have on our team."
In overtime, Krejci made a nifty cross-ice pass to defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Iginla redirected Hamilton's shot from the point and it ricocheted past Gustavsson for the game-winning goal.
Krejci is known for his ability to bring his game to a new level in the playoffs. He's done it his entire professional career, even in the minors with the Providence Bruins. His true ability shines in the postseason. The past two springs, however, it has taken him a few playoff games to get going. Even though his name hasn't shown up on the score sheet, he's been playing physical and helping in other ways. But the Bruins need him and his linemates to produce.
"I have lots of NHL playoff experience," Krejci said. "Guys step up at different times, in different rounds. 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, win the series and maybe different other series it's going to be different. But you have to take care of this one first and we've been doing pretty OK job and we're up 3-1, so why change now?"
His assist on Iginla's game-winning goal was Krejci's first of the playoffs. Overall in his career, he has 29 goals and 45 assists for 74 points in 85 playoff games. "It is nice, but for me, it doesn't matter," Krejci said of his point totals after Game 4. "If we win and I have no points, it happens just like it happened today. 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 Datsyuk and Zetterberg. It was good to see and now we have a chance to finish it off at home."
The Bruins return home with a chance to close out this series with a win in Game 5 Saturday (3 p.m.) at TD Garden. If Boston learned anything from its Stanley Cup run from a year ago, it's to never take an opponent lightly. The Bruins also had a 3-1 series lead over Toronto in the quarterfinals, but the Maple Leafs forced Game 7, before Boston won that series.
Oddly enough, the Bruins also won Game 4 of that series in overtime. Boston now has a stranglehold on the Red Wings and would like to finish the job on Saturday.
"Being up now, we want to close it out, no question," Iginla said.
The Montreal Canadiens are waiting.