BOSTON - In the end, the revenge wasn’t so sweet for Toronto.
Instead the Bruins prevailed as the better team in the third period, and parlayed a James van Riemsdyk cross-check to Johnny Boychuk’s face into a Patrice Bergeron power-play strike for the 3-1 victory over the Maple Leafs on Saturday night at TD Garden.
Bergeron’s strike was the shoveled rebound of a Carl Soderberg shot, and became the first forward to score a power-play goal for Boston this season in their 16th game. The victory against a motivated, emotional Toronto team is the kind of effort that shows convincing evidence the Bruins are lifting out of their malaise. It also gives them a two-game winning streak.
The Bruins and Maple Leafs alternated their best periods of the season through the first 40 minutes, and then left it up for grabs in the final 20 minutes.
The B’s grabbed the momentum with an impressive two minute long shift with Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla cycling the Toronto defense into oblivion, and ultimately holding penalty on Jay McClement. That led to a Bruins power play with Iginla setting things up by crashing the net before feeding a pass to Zdeno Chara fighting off defenders in front of the net to stuff it home.
Toronto stormed back in the second period outshooting the Bruins by an 18-10 margin with Joffrey Lupul snapping off a top corner wrist shot past Tuukka Rask to the glove side to even things up. Bergeron picked up his second goal of the game with 21.7 seconds remaining on an empty net goal created when Loui Eriksson won a puck battle with Dion Phaneuf in the corner.
The Bruins may have lost Adam McQuaid when it appeared he sustained a right leg injury after changing direction quickly while skating behind the Boston net.
GOLD STAR: Patrice Bergeron has experienced a middling start to his season where he hasn’t been terrible, but he hasn’t exactly played his greatest hockey either. Part of it is coming back from some pretty serious injuries and some of it has been some inconsistency with his line, but No. 37 had one of his better efforts Saturday night in the victory over the Maple Leafs. Bergeron scored two goals, including the game-winning, power-play strike at the top of the third period. He finished with four shots on net along 14-of-23 face-off wins in a complete effort against Toronto. Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid were the only plus players in the 3-1 victory.
BLACK EYE: Dion Phaneuf had five registered hits, but he probably should have hoped for a few more given that the Leafs captain was driven to distraction in order to throw his body around. On one shift in the first period, Phaneuf lined up David Krejci and Torey Krug with hits, and then completely ignored covering the front of the net while allowing a Grade “A” scoring chance for the Bruins. James Reimer made the save, but it was vintage bonehead hockey from Phaneuf in the exact kind of mistakes that Boston took advantage of last season.
TURNING POINT: James van Riemsdyk has made a few enemies in the Bruins dressing room the past couple of years with the way that he plays with his stick up in many situations, and it cost Toronto the game. JVR caught Johnny Boychuk with a crosscheck in the mouth at the end of the second period that set up a four-minute power play for the Bruins, and allowed Patrice Bergeron to shovel home the power-play, game-winning rebound for the victory. That’s definitely not the way Dick Umile taught JVR up at the University of New Hampshire.
HONORABLE MENTION: Zdeno Chara has caught plenty of flak in recent days for being a minus player, while appearing a little more sluggish than normal, and he did a good job of answering the bell on Saturday night. Chara’s hands were on display when he snapped home a shot in front for Boston’s power play goal in the first period, and he spent much of his 28:04 of ice time keeping Phil Kessel in check throughout the game. Chara really got a little nasty in the third period when he bullied JVR after one stoppage and crushed Mason Raymond with a hit near the Boston bench on another shift.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the number of power play goals from Bruins forwards after Patrice Bergeron’s PP strike in the third period in Boston’s 16th game of the season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I felt our special teams were obviously the difference tonight. Penalty kill was extremely good; winning battles and getting pucks down the other end. Even when they had the possession in our own end, we were always in the shooting lane and didn’t give them much there. Our power play scored two big goals, and that was huge as well. It was one of those nights where you really relied on your special teams a lot, and they got you a win.” –Claude Julien, who saw the Bruins put on a special teams clinic in the 3-1 victory.