TORONTO -- The Boston Bruins will have a hard time playing better in December than they did in their 13 games in November.
The defending Stanley Cup champs moved into first place in the Northeast Division and capped a November to remember by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 on Wednesday night to finish the month undefeated in regulation.
Milan Lucic scored twice and David Krejci had a goal and a pair of assists for the Bruins. Tim Thomas stopped 37 shots for his 12th win of the season as Boston completed the month with a 12-0-1 record -- only a shootout loss to Detroit on Nov. 25 kept the Bruins from a perfect month. It's their first month without a regulation loss since they went 10-0-4 in January 1969. The last team to go without a regulation loss in a full month was the San Jose Sharks, who were 13-0-2 in March 2008.
November's brilliance came after a 3-7-0 showing in October than left many wondering if the Bruins were suffering from a bad case of Stanley Cup hangover.
"We knew we didn't have our best start to the season. We kind of dug ourselves into a hole and we wanted to climb out of it and have a better record. We're focusing one game at a time, and that's what we did this month and tried to win every game." Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said.
"Obviously it was a really good run, and once you get on that roll you are playing with a lot of confidence. We still have to stay focused and keep going," added the 34-year-old, who ranks fourth among defenseman in the latest All-Star fan balloting.
The Leafs, who lost 7-0 and 6-1 to Boston earlier in the month, were much more competitive this time -- just not good enough to derail the steamrolling Bruins.
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Boston broke a 2-2 tie at 15:30 of the second period when Chara zipped a 15-footer to the short side past Jonas Gustavsson. Krejci set up Chara with a tape-to-tape pass, and Chara finished for his fifth of the season. He has goals in back-to-back games for the first time this season.
"It was an (odd-man) situation, David made a really nice play and I tried to go short side, I didn't know I scored right away because I turned to go back up the ice," Chara said.
"Before I took the pass from Horty (Nathan Horton), I looked and saw (Chara) was open and tried to get it through and it worked," said Krejci whose three points were a season-high and earned him the game's first star.
Benoit Pouliot scored what turned out to be the game winning goal 3:03 into the third period, giving the Bruins a 4-2 lead. Pouliot went top shelf with his shot from the right circle after a passout from behind the net by Joe Corvo.
Matt Frattin got the Leafs within a goal at the six-minute mark when his shot from near the goal line to the right of Thomas went into the net off the goaltender. But Lucic finished off a feed from Krejci with 4:39 left in regulation, and Brad Marchand hit the empty net as Boston beat Toronto for the third time this season, outscoring the Leafs 19-5 in the process.
"That's a good hockey team -- they seem to have our number. I was actually pleased with the way we played," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "Unfortunately, they got five or six power plays and we only really had one and a half. I thought we worked hard enough to draw a few more penalties but we didn't."
The Bruins went up 2-1 at 3:33 of the second period when Krejci put home the rebound of Horton's shot. Gustavsson made the initial save off Horton's soft backhander but John-Michael Liles and Tyler Bozak failed to clear Krejci from the crease, leaving him free to poke the loose puck into the net for his fourth of the season.
The Leafs evened the score at 7:00 on a 2-on-1 break, as Joffrey Lupul fired Phil Kessel's pass behind Thomas for his 12th of the season. Lupul extended his point streak to seven games and finished November with 18 points in 13 games. Kessel, who leads the NHL in points, had failed to register a point against Boston this season until setting up Lupul.
Toronto opened the scoring at 7:29 of the opening period when Mikhail Grabovski finished off a nifty passing play by beating Thomas. Carl Gunnarsson started the play with a long lead pass to Clarke MacArthur at the blue line. MacArthur found a charging Grabovski with a pinpoint cross-ice pass, and Grabovski outskated Andrew Ference before beating Thomas for his sixth goal of the season and first since returning to the lineup after a five-game absence.
Boston tied the game at 15:08 when Lucic wired his ninth past an outstretched Gustavsson just as the first of back-to-back Leaf penalties expired. Lucic snapped an eight-game goal drought, his longest of the season.
"Before that I had eight goals and in eight games so things were going really well and then you go zero goals in eight, it felt like I wasn't getting myself in those areas, I wasn't getting as many shots in those eight games. Most of the goals I have been able to get this season have been around the net and that's what I was able to do tonight and that's why I was successful," Lucic said of his two-goal performance.
Toronto defenseman Luke Schenn said the Leafs can't dwell on the loss and should focus on the positives going into the rematch with the Bruins on Saturday in Boston.