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Bruins Fall Back on What They Know in 4-1 Win Over Leafs

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

TORONTO - If you're the Boston Bruins, success comes from defense.

When your main defensive weapon is not available, your method for success doesn't change.

Keeping that game plan, the Bruins picked up a 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night in their first test of at least a month without captain Zdeno Chara.

"I don't think we changed anything," said Dougie Hamilton, who tied a career high with a three-point night off a goal and two assists.

"I think it's just a lot of focus and everybody knew without him, everyone had to step up. So I don't think it's one guy - it's everyone as a team and our D corps and everything, and I thought we did well. Probably our best defensive game this year."

The Bruins sustained the full 60-minute effort they had been looking for, after coming up short earlier this week against the Isles.

"Well, we were more structured," said Head Coach Claude Julien. "Sometimes, there are things that brings it to attention."

"We spoke about that the last couple of days, about making sure we got better, and not just because Zdeno got hurt but because we weren't playing well enough within our structure."

"At one point, you've got to make sure you get back into the good ways of the hockey club and I guess with the injury, it kind of gave us another reason to be even better, so again, our guys did a great job with following the game plan and I think we really deserved that win."

The Bruins got on the board first, when Carl Soderberg potted a power-play goal at 3:27 into the opening frame. It came on Boston's first power-play opportunity. They had just finished killing off a penalty of their own. Adam McQuaid was in the middle of a clearing attempt, when he was boarded by David Clarkson.

Patrice Bergeron earned his 500th NHL point with an assist on the goal, firing the initial shot that provided the rebound for Soderberg to put home.

David Krejci extended the lead, 2-0, with about six minutes left in the second period, speeding down the left wing after a solid breakout from Hamilton and Dennis Seidenberg. He powered in, out-muscled Phil Kessel, and put his second attempt past Jonathan Bernier.

The Leafs managed only 15 shots on goal in the first 40 minutes, compared to the Bruins' 23. Even with Toronto's speed, Boston didn't allow many odd-man rushes. The first real odd numbered situation came in the second period, but Seidenberg and Hamilton were there to quickly close the gap.

The Leafs only mustered one shot on goal in the first 10 minutes of the second period. Krejci's goal helped to reward the effort.

"We're playing all three zones - especially in our zone, we're taking care of the puck, protecting the slot," Krejci told 98.5 The Sports Hub during the second intermission.

"Just stay tight in our zone. We're missing a big player here, so [we're] just trying not to do too much."

As the Bruins had stressed both prior to the game and on Friday in light of the news that Chara would be out four to six weeks with his left knee injury, their system is in place for a reason. They had to rely on that even more without 'Big Zee.'

"It should be that all the time, but when you lose a guy like Zdeno, you have to rely on it a lot more and it's got to be a total team effort, total team commitment to the structure, to the system that we use," said Julien. "And we got that out of our guys."

"I thought defensively, we kept most of the shots to the outside. They did get some great chances, but Tuukka was up to the task."

Tuukka Rask saved 32 of 33 shots in the win. The Leafs broke the shutout with 5:33 left in the third period, when Richard Panik roofed one from the top of the crease after a Bruins' breakdown.

Down 4-0, Toronto had started to pick up the pace, eventually firing 18 shots on Rask in the final 20 minutes.

"Right from the start, besides the last couple of minutes there, it was really good," Rask said of the team's response. "You know, we talked about it, we wanted to play a solid game, solid road game like we know we can do, and made it happen today, so, great win."

"Overall, I think it was one of our best efforts."

Holding a 2-0 lead heading to the third period, the Bruins didn't let up. They kept pushing.

Just 2:32 into the final frame, a strong forecheck from Daniel Paille kept the puck in the Toronto zone during a Bruins' penalty kill. His quick spinning feed set up Gregory Campbell on the doorstep for a 3-0 lead off a shorthanded tally.

Less than two minutes later, Reilly Smith and Bergeron outbattled the Leafs inside the Bruins' blueline, and popped the puck up to Hamilton, who sped up the ice, and ripped off a shot from the top of the left circle that finished off Bernier's night.

James Reimer then entered the crease in relief.

Hamilton played arguably his best game of the regular season.

"I was just playing, and things happened, and wasn't really thinking about it," said Hamilton, of possibly having a jolt in confidence from stepping up without his usual defense partner, Chara. "I just knew that we were facing a good line with Kessel and me and Seids had to play good defense and play solid."

"And I think it's just a bonus that you get the offense."

The Bruins now have eight players with at least two goals on the season. Krejci and Soderberg are tied for the team lead with three.

As usual, though, the Black and Gold were more focused postgame on what they did well in their own end.

Lately, they had been frustrated with their inability to protect the slot, an area - when at the top of their game - they don't allow to be occupied.

"There were times when they were buzzing there and we did a good job of protecting the house, keeping them to the outside and really limiting their quality scoring chances," said Campbell. "So that was part of our game plan, something that we're going to continue to work on."

"It's a good feeling when we can execute it and play good defense, limit their chances, and then get the offense from that," said Hamilton. "So just focusing on defense and not cheating, and we were able to score some goals as well."

"We just have to keep focusing on that, focus on our own end first, and go from there."

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