BOSTON -- They don't come in bunches for Andrew Ference, that's for sure. But they don't have to.
The Bruins defenseman scored just his third goal of the season on Thursday night -- his first since Jan. 1 -- in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the TD Garden. He did his part in giving the B's a 3-2 lead midway through the second period, on a slap shot from the top of the left circle that found its way past the Maple Leafs' player in front of him, and through the five hole of Toronto goaltender James Reimer.
The Leafs tied the game at 3-3 in the third period, so his goal no longer stood as the game-winner. It would have been nice, had it remained the difference-maker, because not only would it have given the Bruins a win on Thursday night, but it also would have officially crowned them the Northeast Division champs.
Still, it felt good for Ference to put the puck in the net. After all, he doesn't do it very often. But as he, and others pointed out after Thursday night's game, scoring goals isn't Ference's top priority. In fact, it's not even close to a concern.
"It's always fun when one goes in, but I don't know, it's not my main focus," said Ference after the loss. "Obviously, keeping it out of our net is why I have a job.
"We'd be in trouble if it was the other way around, but it's nice to contribute once in a while."
Ference finished Thursday's loss with a game-high plus-2 rating. The only other defenseman to finish with a plus-2 was Adam McQuaid.
Ference is a plus-24 on the season, which ranks 19th overall in the entire NHL. It's a stat that he takes pride in, but also admits that sometimes it's a stat that's not worth worrying about.
"There's absolutely nothing that you can change on certain goals and certain situations," said Ference.
That is true. And Ference wasn't on the ice for any of Toronto's three goals on Thursday night, which means, when he was on the ice, his defense was good enough to help keep the puck out of his own net.
That defensive quality, in itself, is the main reason why Ference is a valuable piece to Boston's championship run.
It doesn't always look pretty when the puck's on his stick, but certainly, he wouldn't be qualified as a "bad" puck-mover. He's a defenseman. He's physical. When he's healthy, he can be a plus player.
His offense has dry spells, no doubt. But again, he's a defenseman. Like he said, he gets paid to play defense, not offense. And while his offense on Thursday night was good enough to help the Bruins earn a point, it's his blue-collar defensive abilities that that team's asking him to utilize in its postseason run.
"He's been good," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after Thursday's loss. "Again, tonight he had a different partner, but for the most part, him and Adam McQuaid have been a really good pair for us.
"I like his competitiveness, I like his mobility, and he moves the puck well."
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.