Bruins Come Back To Earn Shootout Win Over Leafs

Dougie Hamilton and Patrice Bergeron celebrate the game-tying goal in the third period.

Dougie Hamilton and Patrice Bergeron celebrate the game-tying goal in the third period.

The home-and-home series shifted to TD Garden and after a poor start and a bit of an adjustment, the Bruins found a way to dig out of a 2-0 hole against the Maple Leafs and improve to 21-6-3 with their fourth shootout win of the season. With their 44th and 45th points of the year, the B’s overtook the Canadiens for sole possession of first place in the Northeast Division behind two big goals from two of their leaders.

Totaling more than double the scoring chances than the Leafs, the B’s were able to take advantage of just enough of them to keep pace with  Toronto, who took a 2-0 lead in the second after a scoreless first. As the emotions picked up in the second half of the game, it was the Bruins who took control of the momentum and reminded us that it’s not how you start, but how you finish. That’s not to say, however, that they played poorly before they got on the board. They did not; they just couldn’t bury all of their chances.

Patrice Bergeron scored the game-winning goal in the second round of the shootout after both Tyler Seguin and Tyler Bozak scored in the first round. Tuukka Rask stopped the final two shots with saves on Nazem Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin as he pumped his fist twice before exuberantly skating toward the Boston bench. It was the sixth straight win at home for the team against the Leafs and it could not have come at a better time.

“You got to be happy with the way we battled back and found a way to win. Once we got down 2-0 we [kind of] got going,” said a relieved Claude Julien following the game. “It’s been a tough grind and were trying to battle through it,” he added. “It’s a step forward,” said Bergeron.

Rask made 23 saves as he improved to 14-4-3 on the year. James Reimer made 31 saves as he fell to 11-4-3 on the season for the sixth-placed Maple Leafs.

The new lines yielded some pretty good chances in the first 20 minutes, but the Bruins couldn’t get anything by Reimer. Their best chance came on a late power play, but Rich Peverley couldn’t pick the open net and hit the side just a few seconds in. Rask stopped all six shots he faced in the period as Brad Marchand and David Krejci had a chance on one of their first shifts together. Bergeron and Daniel Paille also had a good-looking break and Milan Lucic got a good shot on net, but it was turned away by Reimer as the Bruins continued to try to find a way to score a goal.

Toronto got on the board first, just 2:04 into the second period with Aaron Johnson in the box for what can only be described as a dumb interference penalty. The penalty should never have happened, but it was a possibly blown offsides call that kept the puck in the Bruins’ end with Toronto possession as some of the crew in Black and Gold were hoping for the whistle. The puck found its way on net, but then was deflected into the vacated slot to the wide-open Jake Gardiner. He faked the shot, delayed and got Rask off his line before firing a pass down low to Joffrey Lupul, who one-timed it into the net in his first game back following a two-game suspension. Gardiner and Mikhail Grabovski got the assists on Lupul’s fourth of the year.

The new line of Bergeron, Seguin and Paille had some chances in the following minutes, but it was the Leafs who would get the next one with Kulemin scoring his fifth of the season six minutes later. Kadri stole it in the Leafs’ defensive end and fired a pass that split the D and sent Kulemin off on the breakaway. A quick shot to Rask’s blocker side put Toronto up, 2-0, as they had scored on two consecutive shots. Kadri continued his hot streak with his 10th point in his last five games as he picked up the only assist on the play.

Just under two minutes later, however, Lucic responded to his demotion to the third line with an excellent individual effort as he powerfully lumbered past the defense and got behind the last defender before sneaking it through Remier’s five-hole to cut the lead in half. The play started with Jordan Caron winning the puck in a wall battle in the neutral zone. He then fed Peverley, who found Lucic streaking up the off-wing. It was huge for the Bruins to answer so quickly and ultimately resulted in being a huge momentum lift as they kept the pressure up for the remainder of the game while Peverley showed signs of returning to the way we know he can play. For Lucic, it was his first goal since scoring 16 games ago against the Panthers on Feb. 24.

“I think we definitely started to play a lot better after the goal. It all started with a good breakout,” said Lucic after two. “Jordy did a good job absorbing the pinch and Pevs gave me a great pass there.”

Milan Lucic celebrates his first goal in over a month as Rich Peverley looks on.

Milan Lucic celebrates his first goal in over a month as Rich Peverley looks on.

More Bruins’ chances would follow in the coming minutes with Krejci making a bid to tie the game as well as Peverley and Paille having a short-handed chance with Dennis Seidenberg in the box for a slash. They even got Reimer down with under a minute left, but no one could lift it over him and they went back into the room trailing, 2-1, but having a big edge in momentum.

They kept the pressure up to start the third and even with Bergeron in the box early, Zdeno Chara produced a scoring chance for them on the penalty kill. Things even got rough with Peverley and Seguin surprisingly mixing it up with a couple Leafs. Shortly after that, Julien put the lines back to their usual trios and the B’s responded with the equalizer midway through the third.

Marchand dumped it in before heading off for a change and it was the defenseman, Dougie Hamilton, who won the race to the puck behind the net. He niftily played it to his stick with his skate while outmuscling the defender and then found the wide-open Bergeron in front. Bergeron took his time and backhanded it off the arm of Reimer and in as one of the best defenders in the league, Dion Phaneuf, stood between Bergeron and Reimer, watching the forward get the clean shot off. Bergeron and Hamilton were each back below the dot to stop the Toronto chance after Chara broke his stick before beginning the breakout. Hamilton and Marchand got the assists on Bergeron’s ninth of the year.

“You keep pushing and pushing,” said Lucic and it resulted in the game-tying goal and eventual two points for Boston.

The nasty continued to build with Marchand firing a shot after the whistle and Phaneuf taking exception and Andrew Ference taking exception of that. Phanuef and Ference went to the box for roughing, but the B’s were unable to capitalize on the good tradeoff and things remained tied at two. Krejci had a chance late, but Remier held again and though they outshot Toronto, the Bruins were happy to get to overtime and earn the much-needed point.

The Maple Leafs had a two-on-one chance in the overtime, but the Bruins caught a break as they could not settle the puck on the wing. Chara also had a couple chances, including one in the waning seconds before he was taken down by Kadri in the nothing-to-lose move that led to Chara wanting to fight Phaneuf after the horn sounded as neither would be used in the shootout.

The Bruins opted to shoot first with Seguin in the leadoff spot. He moved in on Remier and scored with a heavy wrister to the glove side after a slight delay. Bozak would tie it up at one on Toronto’s first attempt, however, with a wrist shot to Rask’s glove side. Bergeron then pump faked and held the puck for a while before sliding it into the open side of the net for the game-winner. He improved to 19-of-57 in his shootout career. Remier stopped Marchand, who had a chance to win it, but Rask stopped the final two shots from Toronto and the Bruins fought to a 3-2 shootout win.

“We got down, 2-0, and we were like ‘we have to do something.’ It was a big goal for [Lucic] and a big goal for our team..it got us going,” said Rask on turning up the play after falling into a 2-0 hole. He improved to 8-1-0 with a 1.46 goals against average and a .949 saver percentage in his career against Toronto.

The three stars of the game were Bergeron, Chara and Paille.

Tuukka Rask wasn't one of the three stars, but was still awarded with the rooster following the game.

Tuukka Rask wasn’t one of the three stars, but was still awarded with the rooster following the game.

Following their first and only home-and-home series of the season with any team, the Bruins will be back in action on Wednesday night with first place on the line as the Canadiens come to town for the third of four meetings between the bitter rivals. Toronto (17-12-4) will take on the last-place Panthers Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre.

 

Follow me on Twitter @RealAndyLarmand.

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