BOSTON - Immediately after the puck tipped off his stick and into the Bruins net, Charlie McAvoy couldn't help but feel a bit deflated. The fortunate bounce off a Mitch Marner slapper tied the game midway through the first period and easily could have been a turning point.
But the Bruins have not let much bother them of late, as evidenced by the reaction of Tuukka Rask following that tying tally. After the goal, Rask skated right up to McAvoy and gave him a tap on the shins and some words of encouragement.
It is a fine example of the cohesiveness and camaraderie that has been built in Boston's dressing room - and, perhaps, the chief reason they have surged to a 26-4-4 record since Nov. 16. That record includes the Bruins' 4-1 take down of division rival Toronto on Saturday night at TD Garden.
"It's just another sign of what you're seeing inside of our club, and in that particular case outside, but there's a lot of that going on," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "Guys are working hard for one another, have each other's backs. I was asked a question a while ago about what came first, the chemistry or the winning? I think it was the chemistry.
"You could see it earlier in the year. It didn't result automatically in wins, but you could see our guys pulling for one another, and when we got healthy and started playing the way we wanted to. You see that up and down the lineup. Guys are happy for each other."
Video: Condensed Game: Maple Leafs @ Bruins
And there were plenty of contributions from up and down the lineup on Saturday night. The Bruins received goals from four different players (Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Torey Krug, and Tim Schaller) and 23 saves from Rask as they snapped a six-game skid to the Maple Leafs that dated back to last season. Boston also added some much needed space to their Atlantic Division cushion, extending their lead over the Leafs to 5 points for second place.
"We had some good games against them, but you know, they came back late earlier in the year and we didn't get it done. And obviously we remembered that and we knew it was a good game - a big one, Original Six and Saturday night," said Bergeron, whose tally tied him with Brad Marchand for the team lead with 22 goals.
"There were a lot of things to get yourself ready for and I thought that we showed up ready to build from what we did against St. Louis and with the starts and we did that. And we carried that over for the rest of the game. It's definitely nice to see from everyone."
Rask also extended his personal points streak to 20 games with the victory and has built a 1.59 goals against average and .941 save percentage during that stretch. The netminder, who also assisted on Schaller's empty-net goal, made 23 stops - including a stellar sprawling stick save on Tyler Bozak with the game knotted, 1-1, early in the second period.
"Unreal in the second period. That's one that could be a swing in the game right there, could've given them a lot of life," Cassidy said of the stop. "It gives us some juice, a big save like that. We want to go get him a goal right after that. I didn't think he was too busy to the point where he had to stand on his head, but that was a stand-on-your-head type save, and it was very, very timely. That's a big difference in the game, I think."
Video: TOR@BOS: Rask makes fantastic save on Bozak
Just over five minutes after Rask's save on Bozak, Pastrnak gave the Bruins the lead for good. After winning a race to a loose puck, the Czech native banked a shot off Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen on the power play to give Boston a 2-1 advantage. The tally extended Pastrnak's points streak to eight games (4-6-10).
Krug followed with a rocket one-timer on the power play with 3:13 to go in the second, before Schaller notched an empty-netter with 1:39 remaining to put a bow on Boston's second straight victory.
"I think this week has been a good challenge…I think they've been playoff-type games, fast-pace but physical games too," said Adam McQuaid. "I think it's getting to the latter-part of the season and every point is important. I think you're going to see that increased playoff-level intensity."
Other notes from the Bruins' 4-1 victory over the Maple Leafs at TD Garden:
Chara plays in 1,400th career game: Bruins captain Zdeno Chara had an assist, five hits, and a plus-2 rating in 24 minutes of ice time in the milestone contest.
"It's a special, special moment - special night. There's so many people I should be thanking and it obviously starts with my family - my parents, my wife, my kids - for all their support over the course of the years," said Chara. "I said it in the room too, that in our business, you are obviously measured by wins and losses, but those moments when you have those highs and lows, that's when you really rely on your teammates to support you and give you the special, special push and energy.
"Over the course of 20-plus years, I've been very lucky that I had really good teammates that I could always rely on, and this group is very special. We have many players with so many great personalities that I feel very fortunate to have the teammates that I have. So, it's a special team."
Video: Chara reflects on his 1400th career game
McAvoy returns: McAvoy was back in the lineup after missing four games as he recovered from an ablation procedure to correct and abnormal heart rhythm on Jan. 22. The rookie blue liner was a plus-1 in 18 minutes, 51 seconds of ice time.
"You want to see where you're at physically and mentally when you don't play in a couple games," said McAvoy. "You miss out and you want to come back and get back into it and the game speed, and decision making. Overall it was a good game and when you come out on top against a division rival like that it's awesome. We're really happy in here."
Czarnik back in the mix: Austin Czarnik was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis on Saturday morning and slotted onto the fourth line alongside former Miami (Ohio) teammate Sean Kuraly and former P-Bruins linemate Frank Vatrano. Czarnik played a tad over nine minutes and picked up the primary assist on Krug's power-play goal.
"I think the goal is to come out here and get my legs going on that fourth line and I think we did a good job today," said Czarnik.
Video: TOR@BOS: Krug rips one-timer past Andersen for PPG
McQuaid does his thing: McQuaid has never been shy to step in front of a puck, as evidenced by his blocked shot that resulted in a broken right fibula back in October and forced him to miss three months.
Once again, the veteran D-man didn't hesitate to step in front of William Nylander slapper during a penalty kill in the third period. McQuaid, who also chased down James van Riemsdyk to break up a breakaway attempt earlier in the night, did not miss a shift.
"I think any guy in that situation, you're not thinking about it," said McQuaid. "I guess if you are you're probably not doing it…it's just playing and reacting more so than thinking. Sometimes in those situations, obviously, you're trying to be aware of what's going on, reading situations … at the same time, I'm just playing."