BOSTON — The Toronto Maple Leafs strolled into TD Garden on Saturday night with the second-best record in all of the NHL, but the Boston Bruins couldn’t have been less intimidated by their Atlantic Division rival.
The Bruins snapped their three-game losing streak with a 6-3 victory over the Maple Leafs. While the B’s posted a much-needed offensive flurry, their physical showcase equally was as encouraging.
Brandon Carlo kicked things off when he dropped the gloves with Nazem Kadri in the second period, but it was a brutal late hit from Zach Hyman on Charlie McAvoy in the third that took the chippiness to a new level. Matt Grzelcyk answered the bell almost immediately by scrapping with Hyman, and Chris Wagner responded shortly thereafter by laying a huge hit on Morgan Rielly, prompting a fight with Ron Hainsey.
It’s not always the players you’d expect to engage in fisticuffs for the Bruins, but head coach Bruce Cassidy credits his guys for consistently stepping up the right way.
“It just seems like every time all those hits happen our smallest guy’s the closest guy in the vicinity, but they always go and show up,” Cassidy said. “So you’ve got to give them credit for that. I think the response when those hits come and we’ve talked to our team about that, listen — you’ve just got to be hard on their skill. Not dirty, but hard. Chris Wagner, I thought had a great response. He hit a guy in open ice with a shoulder, had his head down. That usually takes a little bit of the wind out of their sails if that’s how they want to finish a hockey game.”
Brad Marchand echoed Cassidy’s sentiments.
“When you’re gonna go after one of our star players in a game like that, 6-1, he (Hyman) was pissed off because Chucky hit (Mitchell) Marner early in the game and he was trying to get a little retribution,” Marchand said. “We’re a family here. We stick up for one another. Grizzy (Grzelcyk) did a great job jumping in there and Wags (Wagner) did a phenomenal job stepping up in following up the next shift.”
Saturday night’s performance proved that if an opponent wants to turn the game into a slugfest, the B’s have no problem with going toe-to-toe.
Here are some other notes from Bruins-Maple Leafs:
— McAvoy went back to the locker room after the hit from Hyman, per NHL protocol, but ultimately returned. His status for Sunday’s game vs. the Ottawa Senators remains up in the air.
“That would be more Charlie’s call,” Cassidy said. “He’ll wake up and determine how he’s feeling. I think we were going to do that after the Tampa game anyway to make sure he was good. Hopefully he wakes up feeling great and knows ‘Well, hey, you know I’m kind of back to myself.’ That would be the best-case scenario for us.”
— David Krejci was bumped up to the first line, centering Marchand and David Pastrnak. The veteran forward logged a goal and assist, which moved him into 10th place on the Bruins’ all-time scoring list.
— It was three’s company for the B’s, as Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, David Backes, Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato all scored their third goal of the season.
— Gemel Smith made his Bruins debut, notching two shots on goal over 11:40 of ice time.
— Jaroslav Halak stopped 29 of 32 shots to earn his ninth win of the season.