BOSTON — The Bruins’ win over the Toronto Maple Leafs the last time their Original Six rival was in Boston, an overtime Game 7 thriller, was a special win. Their win over Toronto on Saturday night — the two teams’ first meeting since their grueling seven-game series last spring — was also a special one. It was just a different kind of special.
This win will never be confused with the epic come-from-behind win against the Leafs in the first round last season, but it was a much-needed win for Boston, one that was won on the strength of their special teams. The Bruins used two goals from their power play and they killed off all three Toronto power plays on the way to a 3-1 win.
“Obviously special teams was the difference tonight,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Penalty kill was extremely good, winning battles and getting pucks down the other end. Even when they had possession in our own end, we were always in the shooting lane and didn’t give them much there. Our power play scored two big goals and that was huge as well. It was one of those nights where you really rely on your special teams a lot, and they got you a win.”
It’s a solid win for a Bruins team that might be turning the corner. After losing four of five games, the B’s bounced back Thursday to wallop the scuffling Florida Panthers. But it was just as important to build off that win, especially against a Toronto team that entered the night tied for the Atlantic Division lead.
Once a liability, the Bruins’ power play has certainly become a strength. With two goals Saturday night, the Bruins now have nine power-play tallies on the young season with that unit clicking at a 19.1 percent success rate. That’s good enough for 14th in the league. While the middle of the pack may not seem very impressive on the surface, it’s not to be understated given the fact that the Boston power play that finished 26th in the league last year. If the Bruins can get something — anything — out of the man-advantage, it makes them even more dangerous given their defensive prowess.
Much of that can be attributed to not only new pieces but better utilization of those already in the fold. Zdeno Chara scored his third power-play goal of the season, as his seemingly permanent move to in front on the power play has jump-started the first unit. The emergence of Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton on the first and second units respectively has helped, and the addition of Jarome Iginla gives the first unit some added firepower.
“It’s something that we’ve worked on for a few years now and now it seems to be clicking,” center Patrice Bergeron said. “Obviously that helps the team a lot. That’s something that we’ve talked a lot about and that we needed to be better at. So far it’s been good. We’ve got to keep building on that and PK is the same thing. We’ve got to keep playing well there and the special teams is always a key to get some points.”
The PK was not to be outdone Saturday night, either. Facing the fifth-ranked power play in the league, the Bruins were once again suffocating while down a man. Their perfect 3-for-3 performance is just the latest success for a unit that is rounding into form. Boston has now killed 18 straight penalties, which has them all the way up to 12th in the league after sitting at 21st when the week began.
The penalty kill came up especially big in the third period. The Bruins were forced to kill two penalties in the final period, including one in the final minutes when Carl Soderberg was called for holding the stick at 15:24. That kill was an especially physical one that featured big hits from both Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara.
“Once you get along the boards, there’s a battle going on there,” Julien said of the extra-physical kill. “If you’re in a battle with a guy and you knock him down, you can certainly get the puck. The one thing you don’t wanna do is get yourself out of position. I think our guys were in a battle there where they wanted to get the puck and by knocking guys down, they were able to do that.”
When the Bruins finally put the game away with 21.7 seconds left, it wasn’t technically a shorthanded goal, but it did come with Boston a man down after James Reimer was pulled for the extra attacker. Bergeron, whose two-goal performance Saturday was a little less dramatic than his two-goal performance the last time these two teams met, finished it off with the empty-netter.
It was a fitting end to a solid win for the Bruins, who will now try to catapult themselves forward like did the last time they beat the Maple Leafs.