Boston, MA – In the final game of the season between two Original Six rivals, the Boston Bruins defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 Thursday night at the TD Banknorth Garden. The game also concluded a home-at-home series that began Tuesday night and, with the B's two wins, effectively eliminated Toronto from the playoff race.
Phil Kessel, Glen Murray, Peter Schaefer and Marco Sturm tallied the Black & Gold goals for the night, while David Krejci had a two-point game with two pivotal assists.
In all, that makes 10 goals for Boston in the last two games – a big deal for a team who, not long ago, was struggling to put the puck into the net.
“I think you see guys a little more calm than they were because we weren’t scoring. The longer it went on, and the more we were squeezing our sticks,” said head coach Claude Julien. “Now you see them, maybe at times there’s a couple plays that kind of fell on the wayside, but at least they tried them, and before we wouldn’t have even tried them, those kinds of plays. The other is net-front presence and going to the net….Those kinds of things are paying off for us right now.”
A good part of the first period (12:42) went by without so much as a whistle, but the Leafs began some pushing and shoving that got the crowd riled up anyway.
Toronto eventually made some nice moves in the Boston end that called for some work by the B’s defensive pairings, who contributed some well-timed blocks by the net. Tim Thomas, who made eight saves in the period, executed a good glove save that drew the first whistle of the game.
The Black & Gold finally leapt into action with just over three minutes remaining, as Sturm put the first goal of the game on the board off a perfectly-timed pass from Krejci with 3:13 left in the first period, making it 1-0 Bruins.
“I was on the other side, and Muzz did a great job driving the net,” explained Krejci. “I was just waiting for someone to be open because my last option was shooting, I don’t want to shoot. You know there was no possible way in so I went behind and Marco just put it in.”
Toronto's Darcy Tucker earned the first penalty of the game when he was called for high-sticking with 1:22 remaining in the first, which would give the B’s a brief power play to begin the second as well.
The Leafs tied the game at one when, at 4:47, Jiri Tlusty grabbed the rebound off a shot by Nik Antropov and tossed the puck in net behind Thomas, who was still guarding Antropov.
Vladimir Sobotka was robbed of a goal at 6:28 when Vesa Toskala batted his shot out of the air with his glove.
With 11:11 remaining, Thomas sprawled out in front of his goal on his back, feet facing the goal, to stop a shot by Kyle Wellwood.
Shawn Thornton headed to the box at 11:41 on a high-sticking call, giving Toronto their first power play of the night. The Black & Gold got a chance to take a few good shots even with the man advantage, but Toskala stopped them all.
Alexei Ponikarovsky entered the box for tripping with 3:08 remaining after he sent Dennis Wideman to the ice near the Leafs net.
With 21.7 seconds remaining, Thomas wound up on the ice again, this time on his stomach, just barely covering the puck off a shot by Jason Blake.
The first 40 minutes of the game ended tied at one, but with the Leafs leading in shots, with 26 shots to the Bruins 21.
“Basically we [knew we had] to go back to playing the way we did in the first period and the way we did last game. We [couldn’t] afford to play the way we did in the second period,” said Thomas. “The thought process of the coaches going into the third was to tell us to wake up, you are not going to win if you keep playing like that. We responded well..”
Kessel became the hero in the Bruins search for another goal when he took a pass from Peter Schaefer and raced down the ice in a one-on-one with a Toronto defenseman. Kessel was victorious, and tossed the puck above Toskala’s leg into the right side of the Leafs net at 5:47 to put the Black & Gold ahead 2-1.
Boston earned a man advantage – and another chance at a goal – at 9:53 when Ian White was called for hooking.
With half of White’s penalty served, Murray, in prime position by the Toronto crease, took a pass from Krejci and stuffed it into the net at 10:54, making the score 3-1 Boston.
“I think we’ve been working on that the last couple of days of practice, our [power play],” said Murray. “It’s winning games where your [power play] has to win the games, and we got a lucky break. It was a lucky goal for us.”
Krejci served a holding penalty at 13:47, and a long-distance slapshot by Pavel Kubina, plus an effective screen, equaled a 3-2 score at 15:01.
But Boston's Schaefer put the B’s back up by two just a little over 20 seconds later with a goal at 15:24 and made the final score 4-2 Boston.
The game was, once again, a team effort, evidenced by the large amounts of ice time all the players got.
“I think this time of year we need everybody contributing more,” said Coach Julien. “We are young. Our young players aren’t really used to playing the big minutes, and we have to make sure to be smart in the way we utilize players.
“It’s worked well for us, everybody has been playing pretty well, and they are capable of taking on that ice time,” he continued. “That’s one thing I recognized, too, at the end of the game, that it was pretty well spread out, deservingly so.”