-- Mike Knuble did nothing to diminish his status as a favourite of Boston Bruins' fans.
Knuble scored the go-ahead goal on a brilliant individual effort 15 seconds into the third period and Steve Shields made three big saves as the Bruins recorded a key 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Before the game, Knuble was presented the Seventh Player Award, which is voted on annually by fans. In the opening minute of the third period, he stripped the puck from defenceman Robert Svehla, swept around the right goalpost on his backhand and spun before snapping a shot into the top right corner of the net.
"It's my mistake," Svehla said. "Just 15 seconds into the third and that's why we lost."
It was the 27th goal for Knuble, who never had scored more than 15 in a season.
"It certainly has been a helluva day for me," Knuble said. "It's always nice when the fans get to reward a player. It's very fulfilling."
Shields protected the lead with two crucial saves. He stopped Mikael Renberg's quick wrist shot from the slot during a power play with 13 minutes left and reached up to grab Alexander Mogilny's wrister from high in the left circle with 46 seconds to play.
"He made a nice shot," Shields said of Mogilny. "I made four or five saves better than that. He made a good shot, but I could see it and I didn't have to move my glove much. I was in a good position. Those look better than they really are."
With the score tied, 2-2, Shields lunged and made an off-balance glove save on Mats Sundin's shot from the low slot with just over a minute to go in the second period.
"I went to make the initial save and he hung on to the puck, so I had to lunge at him again," said Shields, who finished with 24 stops. "It probably looked more dramatic than it was."
"Steve made some big saves for us," Bruins coach Mike O'Connell said. "In any win in the NHL, your goalie is going to have to make seven or eight big saves, and if he doesn't, your chances of winning are lessened."
Rob Zamuner and Martin Lapointe had the other goals for Boston, which moved four points ahead of the eighth-place New York Islanders and just one behind sixth-place Washington in the Eastern Conference.
"We have to correct a lot of errors, starting from goaltending out," O'Connell said. "I think we can be stronger and a little more confident in all aspects of the game. I think the defensive zone play can pick up and be more sound and more stable."
Darcy Tucker and defenceman Tomas Kaberle tallied for the Maple Leafs, who have lost six of their last eight on the road and got a tongue-lashing from coach Pat Quinn.
"Right now, we're not a very smart team and we take gambles and risks when we have leads," Quinn said. "We're just not playing very smart hockey and I don't think we're working hard enough, quite frankly."
Tucker opened the scoring just 3:15 into the game, but Zamuner tied it 3 1/2 minutes later with his 10th goal, flipping a rebound of P.J. Axelsson's shot under the crossbar.
Toronto regained the lead before the end of the period as Kaberle drifted down the slot, got a pass from Owen Nolan and slid a backhander between Shields' pads at 16:27.
But Lapointe continued his late-season resurgence 13:59 into the second. Off a feed from Jozef Stumpel, he put a wrist shot from the top of the slot past a sliding Svehla and goaltender Ed Belfour.
"I'm being more patient," said Lapointe, who has scored five of his seven goals in the last six games. "I'm not just going out there, running around for hits. I make sure that I'm in good position and taking shots when I'm coming across the blue line."
Again, Quinn was critical of his team.
"Our forwards aren't checking anybody right now," he said. "They just want to play on the offensive side. The trouble is, they're not getting any offense, either. You don't check, you don't get any offense."