TORONTO (AP) -The Boston Bruins seem to be gearing up for a long playoff run.
After holding a comfortable lead in the Eastern Conference for most of the season, the Bruins can finally see the start of the postseason coming into view.
A 7-5 victory over the Toronto on Saturday night left Boston with just eight games remaining in the regular season. Coach Claude Julien believes each of them is important even though his team seems destined to wrap up the No. 1 seed a little early.
"We've got our own issues," Julien said. "Just because we're in a playoff spot doesn't mean that everything's OK. Our play in the last month and a half hasn't been up to par. We need to get better in our game.
"So those games do mean something for us. It's about fine-tuning ourselves and getting some momentum heading into the playoffs."
He was happy with everything but the team's defensive play against the Maple Leafs.
One possible explanation for the lapses was the fact that Boston hadn't played in five days. The stretch of inactivity was even longer for backup goalie Manny Fernandez, who got his first start since March 8.
It wasn't an excuse many Bruins went for. Fernandez, for one, didn't think the break should be a reason for the team to struggle.
"You want to take that positively," Fernandez said. "Playoffs are around the corner. I think at that point it would be a good time to have maybe five days off and maybe rest a little bit. We've been hoping to turn things around and that's the direction we're trying to take."
Mark Recchi scored two goals, Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick each added three assists, and Chuck Kobasew, Michael Ryder, Shawn Thornton, David Krejci and Blake Wheeler also scored for Boston. Alexei Ponikarovsky scored twice for Toronto, and Nikolai Kulemin, John Mitchell and Niklas Hagman added goals.
"It's a tough loss, giving up seven goals is never fun," Hagman said. "We made it tough on our goalies. As a team, we need to play better."
Rookie Justin Pogge was chased from the Toronto goal in the second period after allowing six goals on 20 shots. He's 1-4-1 in six NHL starts.
"The bounces just weren't going my way," Pogge said. "I've got to make myself bigger in there."
Ponikarovsky put the Maple Leafs ahead 4-3 when he scored his second goal of the night at 6:06 of the second period. That was his third point of the evening and hi 14th in the last seven games.
Boston roared ahead by scoring three goals in a 3:43 span. Recchi tied it with his second power-play goal on a tip-in at 9:01, and Thornton put the Bruins ahead for good at 11:30. His long shot through traffic seemed to fool Pogge.
"Everyone pays $450 bucks a ticket, so they got their money's worth anyways," said Thornton, from Toronto. "I only know that because I had to buy them for my parents."
Leafs coach Ron Wilson called a timeout at that point to try and settle his team, but Krejci made it 6-4 on a breakaway at 12:44.
Curtis Joseph was sent in to relieve Pogge - the reverse of what happened during a 5-3 loss in Buffalo on Friday night - but the game was put out of reach when Wheeler scored at 17:04.
In the third period, Hagman scored his 20th goal of the season - and the 100th of his career - with a high wrist shot at 14:39. That was a welcome sight in his first game since sustaining a concussion Feb. 26.
Notes: Boston won five of six against the Maple Leafs this season. ... Defenseman Jay Harrison played his first game for Toronto in two years after signing a free-agent contract this week. ... Bruins forward Phil Kessel missed the game because of an undisclosed injury. ... Leafs goalie Martin Gerber served the second game of his three-game suspension.
|Nikolai Kulemin (14) ASST: Alexei Ponikarovsky (35), Jeff Finger (15)|
1 - 0 TOR
|Chuck Kobasew (19) ASST: Matt Hunwick (16), Milan Lucic (23)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Michael Ryder (26) ASST: Dennis Wideman (33), David Krejci (44)|
2 - 1 BOS
|PPG - John Mitchell (10) ASST: Jason Blake (34), Ian White (15)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Alexei Ponikarovsky (22) ASST: Mikhail Grabovski (26), Phil Oreskovic (1)|
3 - 2 TOR
|PPG - Mark Recchi (18) ASST: Matt Hunwick (17), Michael Ryder (23)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Alexei Ponikarovsky (23) ASST: Mikhail Grabovski (27)|
4 - 3 TOR
|PPG - Mark Recchi (19) ASST: Marc Savard (56), Dennis Wideman (34)|
4 - 4 Tie
|Shawn Thornton (6) ASST: Matt Hunwick (18), Mark Stuart (11)|
5 - 4 BOS
|David Krejci (22) ASST: Milan Lucic (24), Dennis Wideman (35)|
6 - 4 BOS
|Blake Wheeler (19) ASST: P.J. Axelsson (22), Marc Savard (57)|
7 - 4 BOS
|Niklas Hagman (20) ASST: Jason Blake (35), John Mitchell (17)|
7 - 5 BOS
|Stephane Yelle Hooking against John Mitchell|
|Jeff Finger Tripping against Blake Wheeler|
|Matt Hunwick Interference against Boyd Devereaux|
|Jeff Hamilton Tripping against Mark Recchi|
|Milan Lucic Fighting (maj) against Phil Oreskovic|
|Phil Oreskovic Fighting (maj) against Milan Lucic|
|Luke Schenn Fighting (maj) against Steve Montador|
|Steve Montador Fighting (maj) against Luke Schenn|