BOSTON — Back in training camp, Milan Lucic publicly stated that his goal for the season was to reach the 20-goal mark this year.
It seemed like a bold aspiration for a player who had never scored more than 17 goals in a season and was coming off an injury-plagued campaign that saw him score just nine times in 50 games.
As it turns out, 20 goals was indeed an unrealistic quest for the fourth-year left wing. It was far too low.
Lucic reached the milestone before the All-Star break, scoring his 20th of the season Wednesday night against Florida. And this was a meaningful marker as well, as Lucic's second-period strike proved the game-winner as the Bruins go into the break on a high note with a 2-1 win over the Panthers.
"It feels good," Lucic said of reaching the 20-goal mark. "That was the big question coming in [to the season], from myself and a lot of other people, if I was able to get to that mark. It came a lot quicker than I thought, but most importantly it was a big goal to help the team win here."
The breakthrough season has been especially gratifying for Lucic after his struggles last season, with a broken finger and a high-ankle sprain costing him 32 games and limiting his effectiveness even when he did play.
"It was real tough going through what I went through, being out for so long," Lucic said. "Even when I came back, that high-ankle sprain was still bugging me. To work as hard as I did this summer and get rewarded for it thus far this season is great, but I can't stop here. I have to keep pushing for more."
So with his initial goal for the season already reached, what will Lucic shoot for when play resumes after the All-Star break?
"I'm just taking them one at a time, looking at every game and trying to create chances and opportunities," Lucic said. "I've had some real great linemates this year and I feel like I've been skating better and I've worked on my shot. That's a big reason why I've been able to produce and looking forward I just have to do the same thing. I shouldn't change anything, just keep pushing for more."
That's music to coach Claude Julien's ears, as the final piece to the puzzle for Lucic is to consistently put in the effort needed to keep those goals coming.
"He's one of those guys that's building consistency in his game," Julien said. "I should expect him to continue playing a physical game. We should expect him to continue to produce because he's capable of doing that. I think what we've seen in the first half is what he's capable of doing for us as we move on."
Lucic's linemates are also hoping that he can continue to pile up the points. David Krejci centered Lucic when that top line got off to a blistering start. Lucic had 10-7-17 totals through the first 17 games, capped by a hat trick against the Panthers on their last visit to the Garden on Nov. 18.
Lucic had cooled for a while, but heated back up since returning from a three-game absence with an undisclosed injury earlier this month. He has 4-1-5 totals in six games since returning, including three goals in the last three games since being reunited with Krejci.
"It's good, especially when he's on my line," Krejci said of Lucic's scoring. "I'm trying to create some chances and he did pretty good to get his own goals. I think he could have more goals, but I'm happy with where we are so far and I don't want to stop that. We need him as much as we need myself to create the chances for him so if we can continue that then everybody will be happy."
Lucic certainly was happy to reach 20 goals for the first time, but he has no intention of stopping there.
"It's great," Lucic said. "It's obviously something that I talked about coming in, and that was a goal for myself and that I reached it as quickly as I did, it's a good step for me. I couldn't be happier right now, but definitely not satisfied."