Bruins-Canadiens will always have the cache in terms of heated Original 6 rivalries involving Boston, but Bruins-Maple Leafs has been cranked up a few notches in terms of intensity. In their first meeting since last spring’s unforgettable first round playoff series, the Bruins beat the Maple Leafs, 3-1, in a playoff type atmosphere at TD Garden Saturday. Boston (10-5-1) received two goals from Patrice Bergeron to beat Toronto (11-6-0), which was playing its second game in two nights.
“Our special teams were the difference tonight,” said Boston head coach Claude Julien about his power play which scored twice and penalty kill which went 3 for 3 (they’ve killed their last 18 penalties in a row dating back to Oct. 26 vs. Devils). “They won battles and got pucks to the other end. We relied on special teams and it got us a win.”
Tuukka Rask (33 saves) also was outstanding and Zdeno Chara (power play goal) played one of his best games all season. Boston lost focus a bit in the second period, getting outshot 18-10, but they dominated in the first (14-7 shots) and outscored the Maple Leafs 2-0 in the third. Chara’s power play goal came late in the first period as Iginla found him from behind the net and he was able to beat multiple Leafs to the puck. Joffrey Lupul’s wrist shot from a tough angle surprisingly eluded Rask late in the second period but Bergeron picked him up by lifting a power play goal over James Reimer’s (32 saves) outstretched glove 1:06 into the third.
“It was a great game on both sides,” said the understated Bergeron. “They are ahead of us in the standings so we knew it was a huge game. The power play is something we’ve worked on for years; we knew it had to be better-same with the penalty kill.”
Bergeron’s empty-netter with 21.7 seconds left was vintage Bergeron since he boxed out a Maple Leaf and finished Loui Eriksson’s aerial pass. Boston has two more games left on this homestand, Monday afternoon (1, NESN) vs. Tampa Bay (12-4-0), who right now is the top team in the Eastern Conference.
What they'll be saying: It’s tough to beat any Original 6 matchup involving the Bruins. There was a healthy amount of Maple Leaf fans at the Garden on Saturday, making a very entertaining game that much better. Iginla has seamlessly replaced Nathan Horton on the first line and objectively, you have to say that he’s even better given the more complete game (physical, two-way play, fighting) that he possesses. The fact that he’s still searching for his first Stanley Cup can only help the Bruins. You wonder if in a few years, Loui Eriksson will be seen as the minor piece of the Tyler Seguin trade with Dallas and Reilly Smith (2 goals, 9 assists) will be the centerpiece. It’s unfair to judge Eriksson until the recent concussion is well behind him but it’s hard to argue with Smith’s immediate production. Boston played most of the game without Adam McQuaid who left in the first period with an undisclosed injury. That meant the Bruins only used five defensemen with Chara logging a game-high 28:04. McQuaid will never be confused with Danny Amendola or Jacoby Ellsbury but let the record show that he’s missed 31 games since the start of 2011-12. Luckily for the Bruins, if he misses any time they have Matt Bartkowski waiting for an opportunity to shine.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate