For the second time this season and eighth consecutive time in their series, the Bruins held on to beat the Maple Leafs in front of yet another sellout crowd at TD Garden. Again, it was Boston’s second line combination of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin that led the B’s with eight total points including three out of the four goals.
Seguin got the first scoring play of the game with a great individual effort with less than a minute left in the first. He collected the puck and made a couple moved before blowing by the defender on the off-wing and getting a half-hearted shot on net. A hooking penalty was called, but Bergeron was right there to tip in the loose pick for his sixth of the year. The trio capitalized on momentum following a big penalty kill and an Anton Khudobin split save to rob Kessel on the doorstep. That line wouldn’t be done either.
“He’s playing better, battling along boards, no hesitation in his game,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien of Seguin.
The goal came about a minute and a half after Rich Peverley couldn’t control the puck with an open net three feet in front of him and livened up the first before it expired after not much had happened except for an Adam McQuaid fight. Like Zdeno Chara five nights ago, McQuaid took exception to a borderline board on Chris Kelly and got in the face of Mark Fraser before they decided to drop the gloves.
Toronto would come back and tie it up just over two minutes into the second with Marchand and Dion Phaneuf in the box on matching roughing calls. Johnny Boychuck pinched down behind the Toronto net to battle for the puck and left David Krejci, who, don’t get me wrong, isn’t a terrible defensive forward, at the blue line. The puck got through Krejci and the Toronto penalty killers took advantage of the two-on-one that ensued, tying the game with a one-timer from Nazem Kadri. Assists went to Clarke MacArthur and Carl Gunnarsson on 43′s 11th of the year.
The Leafs got another two-on-one a few minutes later when Nikolai Kulemin came out of the box and rushed in down the right wing. This time, he chose to shot, but Khudobin made the glove save. On the Bruins’ power play, Gregory Campbell replaced the newly-waived Chris Bourque on the second unit and looked pretty solid.
The B’s came right back, again due to the play of the second line. Marchand took control of the puck near the blue line and drew both Leafs defenders to him. He neatly saucered a pass through them and hit a wide-open Seguin right on the tape. His wrister beat Ben Scrivens and gave the lead back to Boston as “Thank you, Kessel,” chants rained down from the 17,565 fans in attendance. Marchand, who has had at least two assists in two of his last three games, got the initial helper with Bergeron picking up the second.
Over the last nine games, the line of Marchand, Bergeron and Seguin have combined for 14 goals and 21 assists and in the three most recent games alone, have combined for 17 points.
Things would settle back down for much of the remainder of the period with Khudobin standing tall and Kessel doing nothing. At a time when the game was close and both teams were looking to grab the momentum, Krejci put the B’s on top, 3-1, with a goal 18:03 into the second. Andrew Ference fired a shot from the point and Krejci scooped in the rebound after Scrivens made the initial save for his sixth of the year. Ference and Milan Lucic picked up the helpers.
The period ended with Seguin in the box for slashing and the Bruins up, 3-1, but trailing in shots, 22-15. Another questionable hit sent Phaneuf to the box just a few seconds after, but neither that power play or their next one a couple minutes later led to anything.
The first 10 minutes of the third went by without Toronto registering a shot on goal, but they remained within striking distance with a goal on a turn-around shot from Mikhail Grabovski with just over five minutes left. He took the puck at the goal line and skated toward the circle before spinning and firing all in one motion. He beat Khudobin to make it 3-2, but that would be the last pressure the Leafs would mount.
Seguin added the empty-netter, his second of the night, with 14 seconds remaining and the Bruins improved to 15-3-3 on the year with their first win in three games. He now has 10 goals and six assists in 14 career games against the Maple Leafs following his first two-goal game since April 7 of last season.
Khudobin finished the game with 25 saves and improved to 4-1-0 on the year in his second start in five days in the battle of backup goaltenders. Scrivens fell to 0-2-0 in his career against Boston and has allowed 10 goals in those two games.
“That;s what you want and hope to get from your backup goaltender,” Julien said after the game.
Daniel Paille played just 9:18 of ice time and logged an even rating in his 400th career NHL game. Bergeron’s goal with 53 seconds remaining in the first marked the eighth time this season that the team has scored with less than two minutes remaining in a period and they improved to 6-0-2 in those games.
“He’s incredible. He’s won at every level,” said Marchand of his linemate following the game.
Toronto led in shots the whole game and finished on top, 27-25, but the play of the second line lifted the Black and Gold past them.
The three stars of the game were Marchand, Seguin and Bergeron. How fitting for a game that they dominated.
The B’s are back in action on Saturday afternoon at the Garden in their first matchup of the season against the 11-13-1 Flyers. Puck drops at 1 p.m.
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