BOSTON – Some temporary line changes and a commitment to working hard at both ends of the rink paid off in a triumphant homecoming for the Boston Bruins on Monday.
Coming off a 1-3-0 road trip, the Bruins juggled all four of their forward lines for the first two periods and earned a split of a home-and-home series with the Toronto Maple Leafs by rallying from 2-0 down en route to a 3-2 shootout victory at TD Garden.
Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron scored Boston’s shootout goals, while Tuukka Rask stopped two of three shooters. Rask finished with 23 saves in regulation and overtime. The Bruins lost 3-2 at Toronto on Saturday after they failed to complete a comeback from a 3-0 deficit.
Despite the win, Bruins coach Claude Julien is concerned about the way his team is playing.
"To me, it was a gutsy effort," Julien said. "Not a pretty one, but a gutsy one. Until they scored their second goal, we weren’t really that good. I don’t think the will and desire is not there more than we’re a little heavy in our play right now. We’ve lost some speed and everything else that comes with it. So it’s a gutsy effort anyway from our part that after they scored their second goal, we got ourselves going."
Julien noted that he’s a little concerned about potential fatigue. He cancelled the team’s morning skate Monday and cancelled Tuesday’s practice after the win.
The new line combinations didn’t wake up the Bruins’ offense (six goals in their prior four games) until the second period. Milan Lucic’s new line featured Rich Peverley at center and Jordan Caron on the opposite wing. In the second period, Lucic brought the Bruins to within 2-1 down with 10:11 remaining in the period as he scored his first goal in 16 games off a feed by Peverley.
"It was almost like I wasn’t even thinking," Lucic said. "It’s just one of those things that when you’re scoring, you’re not even thinking about it. So my only thought was ‘take the puck to the net.’ And I was able to open him up. He played really well the last two games, [James] Reimer. He plays post to post pretty well, so that’s why I decided to go in the 5-hole there."
In the third period, Lucic was back with Nathan Horton and David Krejci, while Bergeron was back centering Brad Marchand and Seguin. The return to normalcy kept the Bruins rolling in the right direction, as Bergeron’s goal with 10:36 elapsed in the third period tied the game at 2. Dougie Hamilton actually went on the forecheck and created a turnover below the goal line before he passed to an open Bergeron in the slot.
The Maple Leafs, trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004, hadn’t beaten the Bruins in eight tries prior to Saturday. So earning three of a possible four points from their Northeast Division rivals was another sign of a promising future for the Leafs.
"Yeah, I thought we limited their quality chances, but we gave up a few that cost us," Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said. "We definitely feel good about the way we’ve played. We’re not happy with not getting two points [tonight], but we’ll take three out of four and move forward, and focus on getting ready for Florida. That’s what you have to do. The bottom line is, you look at the positives, we got three out of four, and you look forward to the next game because it comes [Tuesday] night, real quick."
One positive was the return of Joffrey Lupul. The forward returned from a two-game suspension and made his presence felt just 2:04 into the second period after the both teams failed to score in the first. Lupul was wide open on the goal line to the left of Rask for a one-timer after a feed from Jake Gardiner on the power play. Gardiner sold the shot to the Bruins’ penalty killers before making the slap pass.
Toronto doubled its lead on a Nikolai Kulemin breakaway. After Nazem Kadri, the NHL Third Star last week, blocked Aaron Johnson’s slap shot, the Toronto center fed the puck ahead to Kulemin, who dragged the puck to his forehand and roofed the puck at 8:01 for a 2-0 lead.
The Bruins, who outshot the Leafs for the second straight game, might not have been at their best but they played better in all facets than on their recent road trip.
"Honestly, it’s not one thing," Bergeron said. "I think there were a lot of things we weren’t doing well and I think we tuned that up overall – neutral zone, forecheck, defensive play, and not giving them too much in the slot there. I thought offensively we were creating a lot of chances and having some traffic in front."