BOSTON -- When the Toronto Maple Leafs scored with 5:08 left in the third period, you could almost sense what was coming.
No longer was a Bruins third-period lead a safe one. That's the knee-jerk reaction, at least, after two-straight losses that saw third-period leads crumble.
Bigger picture, and those losses to Montreal and Washington were nothing more than part of what Claude Julien called "the peaks and valleys" of a season, following Thursday night's 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the TD Garden.
Because even though the Maple Leafs cut the Bruins' lead to 3-2 in the final minutes of the third period, they were able to score an empty-netter and prevent another late collapse.
And they were able to do it with their backup goaltender between the pipes.
"You have to continue playing," said Anton Khudobin after the win. "It doesn't matter when it's 3-2. It could be 3-2 after the second period. You just have to continue playing.
"We were leading 3-2. It's no panic. What was there five minutes left, six minutes left? No panic. You just have to continue playing."
Khudobin made 25 saves in picking up his fourth win of the season. And even though he allowed a late third-period goal, he wasn't shaky on this night.
Jay McClement re-directed a Mikhail Grabovski shot from the left circle that made it a one-goal game in the third, but the late deflection minimized Khudobin's chances of stopping it.
"It was just a deflection in front of me," he said. "I kind of saw the shot, but it was a deflection right in front of me, and I couldn't react right away."
The first goal he allowed came 2:32 into the second period, and Khudobin gave his best effort to stop the 2-on-1 attempt. But there was really not much more he could do to stop Nazem Kadri's shot from the left circle, which went into the net off Khudobin's stick as lunged to his right.
"I was actually thinking that I had stopped that," said Khudobin. "Because it hit my stick. But it kind of curled into the net. It's alright, sometimes it happens. Sometimes it's going to be saved, sometimes a goal."
That time it was a goal, and it tied the game at 1-1.
Before then, Khudobin made one of the best saves of the game, as the Maple Leafs were on a power play midway through the first period.
A shot went wide and bounced back out to the left post, where Tyler Bozak attempted to put the puck into an open net. But Khudobin quickly reacted to his right and kicked the right pad out to keep the game scoreless.
"They were shooting for a deflection and he kind of deflected it wide," said Khudobin. "I saw the puck coming back in front of me, and I pretty much just jumped back and tried to get back in the net."
"He did great," said Brad Marchand. "He played very well, and you saw he made a lot of big saves. Especially the one early on there on the power play, and a few at the end. So you've got to give him credit. He came in in a tough situation and played very well."
Even with those two goals, Khudobin showed his poise, not only after pulling out a close win, but also after he was essentially asked to come in and help pull the team out of an awful, uncharacteristic two-game stretch.
"That's what you want and you hope to get from your backup goaltender," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the win. "He played well tonight. That second goal, you could see he was mad. He felt he should have had it. But he made some real good saves the whole game. I thought he was solid. It certainly makes our team feel a lot better when you know that no matter who you put in net, they're going to give you a solid performance.
"I think it was the confidence that we had in him that we could put him in against a real good team. The Leafs played a really good game for a team that played last night. They played and they gave us all we could handle. But [Khudobin] deserved to be in that game, and we knew he could give us that. It's about this schedule and making sure that we rotate our goaltenders and make sure we keep our goaltenders as fresh as possible. Because they're the guys that, a lot of nights, will make the difference in the games."