BOSTON -- Two nights after a slump-busting home win against the New Jersey Devils, the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled off the kind of road win that could help make their recent struggles a distant memory.
Tyler Bozak scored twice to go with an assist, Phil Kessel had three assists, and Jonathan Bernier made 38 saves in the Maple Leafs' 4-3 win against the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Tuesday night.
Bernier faced 41 shots as Toronto beat Boston for the first time this season; the Maple Leafs had not beaten the Bruins since Game 6 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Toronto hung on despite getting outshot 15-6 and getting pinned in its own zone for much of the final 75 seconds of regulation with the Bruins' goaltender pulled.
The victory came with a valuable lesson for the Maple Leafs.
"Sometimes we let leads slip away. And it was close there," Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner said. "Just the fact that we know we can protect leads, and even if they're coming at us with all their guns, but we showed some good things late in the third."
The Maple Leafs (23-20-5) snapped a four-game losing streak when they beat the Devils on Sunday in a shootout. They last won in regulation Dec. 29 against the Carolina Hurricanes. Even dating back to a 3-2 loss against the Washington Capitals last week, Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said his team is starting to play more the way he wants it to.
"They're better efforts, that's for sure," Carlyle said. "And we've raised our compete level. And we're going to have to continue to do that to get points. And that's the most frustrating part for our hockey club has been that we haven't been able to achieve that with any consistency for  games. And that's frustrating for the coaching staff, that's for sure."
Tuukka Rask made 22 saves for the Bruins (29-15-2), who had one regulation loss in their prior 18 home games. Boston's three-game California road trip ended with a 1-0 win against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday after losses to the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.
"It [stinks] right now losing tonight. That never feels good after a loss," Bruins forward Jarome Iginla said. "You know at times, we did some really good things. But unfortunately, we had some breakdowns and stuff and we lost a close game. Guys were trying to build back kind of a winning streak again, and we had a good game in San Jose. Today wasn't as good. We get back at it against [the Dallas Stars on Thursday], and we try to start there again. But I don't think there's anyone feeling sorry for ourselves. And I don't believe we can [feel sorry for ourselves]. It's just a tough stretch."
It took the Bruins 3:38 to grab the lead. Reilly Smith made a move to the middle of the ice in front of the Toronto net, getting off a backhand shot around Maple Leafs defenseman Carl Gunnarsson on Bernier from between the hash marks. The rebound deflected to Brad Marchand left of the slot for the rebound shot and a 1-0 lead.
Bozak's first of two goals in the first period tied the game at 5:52. After an icing, Bozak beat Gregory Campbell clean on a faceoff and Kessel set up Gunnarsson for a one-timer from the blue line. Bozak scored on the rebound.
The Bruins jumped back in front when Patrice Bergeron shocked Bernier with a spinning backhand wraparound shot that snuck in the short side at 10:48 for a 2-1 lead. But Bozak tied it again, this time on a power play. James van Riemsdyk found a loose puck in front and fed a cross-ice pass past Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk for a one-timer to make it 2-2 at 12:47.
Toronto's power play cashed in for the second time at 7:09 of the second period to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 lead. Kessel's quick cross-ice pass found Gardiner at the right dot. The defenseman stopped the puck, then whizzed a wrist shot past Rask's glove, with the goaltender getting a piece of the shot but not enough as Toronto took a 3-2 lead.
Toronto finished 2-for-5 with the man advantage and blanked Boston on its three power-play chances. The Bruins' penalty kill has allowed six goals in the past four games.
"Too many breakdowns," Bergeron said. "But also I think we are forcing plays that we shouldn't and sometimes we're not in sync, we're not forcing where all guys go as a whole and together. And obviously, when there's only one guy going, that opens up too many lanes and they're going to eat you alive if you do that, then if you don't, if you aren't on the same page.
Early in the third period, the Maple Leafs extended their lead to two goals. Nikolai Kulemin gained the Boston zone with little resistance and dished off to van Riemsdyk, whose wrist shot from the top of the right circle ticked off Chara's stick and beat Rask for a 4-2 lead with 1:00 elapsed.
Campbell got the Bruins back within one with a backhand goal from in front at 9:35 after Daniel Paille stole a Gardiner pass behind the net and bumped the puck out to Campbell.
The Bruins fired 15 shots on goal in the third period, including several in the waning moments, but came up one goal short. Although the Bruins and Maple Leafs played two times prior this season, the memory of the Maple Leafs' collapse with a three-goal lead in the third period of Game 7 of last year's playoff series is still fresh for many. That didn't alter Bozak's confidence as his team tried to hang on for the win.
"Not for me, personally. I was confident that we were going to be able to get the job done," Bozak said. "Obviously, it wasn't as pretty as it could have been, but the most important thing is that we did get it done."
Toronto is home to face the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday. The Bruins play in Dallas on Thursday before visiting the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Sunday afternoon in a rematch of the Stanley Cup Final last spring.
|Brad Marchand (11) ASST: Reilly Smith (18), Patrice Bergeron (16)|
1 - 0 BOS
|Tyler Bozak (8) ASST: Carl Gunnarsson (6), Phil Kessel (22)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Patrice Bergeron (11) ASST: Zdeno Chara (10), Brad Marchand (12)|
2 - 1 BOS
|PPG - Tyler Bozak (9) ASST: James van Riemsdyk (18), Phil Kessel (23)|
2 - 2 Tie
|PPG - Jake Gardiner (3) ASST: Phil Kessel (24), Dion Phaneuf (14)|
3 - 2 TOR
|James van Riemsdyk (18) ASST: Tyler Bozak (13), Joffrey Lupul (11)|
4 - 2 TOR
|Gregory Campbell (3) ASST: Daniel Paille (4)|
4 - 3 TOR
|Shawn Thornton Fighting (maj) against Frazer McLaren|
|Frazer McLaren Fighting (maj) against Shawn Thornton|
|Carl Soderberg Hooking against Peter Holland|
|James van Riemsdyk Tripping against Brad Marchand|
|Adam McQuaid Tripping against Tyler Bozak|
|Tim Gleason Tripping against Jarome Iginla|
|Ryan Spooner Holding against Nazem Kadri|
|Zdeno Chara Interference against James van Riemsdyk|
|Carl Gunnarsson Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Matt Bartkowski Hooking against Nazem Kadri|