Short-staffed Bruins beat Maple Leafs, 5-2
Down two regular defensemen and three forwards thanks to injuries and an impending suspension, the Bruins came through with perhaps their most impressive win of the season Sunday night, 5-2, at Air Canada Centre over the Maple Leafs.
Boston (20-8-2) lost Dougie Hamilton in the first period and Kevan Miller late in the third period yet the remaining cast made it work in front of backup goaltender Chad Johnson (30 saves).
Toronto (16-12-3) scored the first goal as Peter Holland banked in a loose puck off Johnson and into the net midway through the first period. Boston took control with a pair of power-play goals 1:33 apart in the second period. Carl Soderberg finished a nice passing sequence from Reilly Smith and Patrice Bergeron, then Torey Krug blasted a slap shot past Maple Leafs part-time starter Jonathan Bernier (34 saves).
Miller’s first career NHL point came on a goal and it turned out to be the game-winner. His shot from the blue line found its way past Bernier late in the second period for a 3-1 lead. Toronto’s Jay McClement cut it to 3-2 by following his own rebound 37 seconds into the third period. It looked like the B’s would fold as they were called for consecutive penalties but Johnson bailed them out including a right pad save on Jake Gardiner.
Jarome Iginla iced it with a tip-in after a wonderful play by Milan Lucic to collect the puck in his own end and advance all the way to the far side of the arena before centering it. Patrice Bergeron’s empty-netter made it 5-2 after the Maple Leafs took a timeout and pulled Bernier for the extra attacker.
This was the start of a four-game road trip in Western Canada and the B’s actually regained control of the Atlantic Division with Montreal idle. Boston is in Calgary (11-14-4) on Tuesday (9:30, NESN), which might as well be called “Iginla Night.” The game represents the former Flames icon’s first game back with another team.
What they’ll be saying: Every team suffers injuries, so there is no use lamenting the inevitable, but Boston’s recent spate of injuries is like something out of a war movie. At some point, this will all catch up to the Bruins but for now, the Providence Bruins have to be very proud that they keep sending up productive players. This was Ryan Spooner’s first game back since his recall and linemate Matt Fraser’s first game as a Bruin (he came over from Dallas in the Tyler Seguin deal). They were on the third line with Carl Soderberg and while both played under nine minutes so their impact was limited. They were each plus-1. Jordan Caron was on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille. Miller’s first NHL goal was one to savor and hopefully he doesn’t miss any time after Dion Phaneuf hit him with a cheap shot – pushing him into the boards from behind. It would be a shock if Phaneuf (who is known for dirty stuff like that) wasn’t suspended for that needlessly dangerous play. This was Johnson’s (5-1) best performance of the season, mostly because it was the first playoff team he had faced and given all the question marks that surround the B’s.
Think of this trip as Lucic’s audition for Team Canada as it was a good start as he had two assists.
Patrice Bergeron (1 goal, 1 assist), David Krejci (2 assists) and Carl Soderberg (1 goal, 1 assists) also had multiple points. Few would have expected Boston to score their most goals in 23 games (since they hung five on Buffalo Oct. 23).
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate