TORONTO – The Boston Bruins, in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons the previous night, stuck to hockey Sunday.
Minus the suspended Shawn Thornton, awaiting his punishment for a red mist that saw him send Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik to hospital on Saturday, the injury-ravaged Bruins rallied to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 on the strength of three second-period goals.
Carl Soderberg, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Jarome Iginla and Patrice Bergeron—with an empty-net goal coming out of the penalty box with 11 seconds remaining—scored for Boston, which came into the game under scrutiny thanks to Thornton’s meltdown at TD Garden.
The Bruins tough guy is suspended pending a league hearing into his sucker-punch attack.
For Iginla, Sunday’s game was a chance for the Bruins to get back to their game.
“It was (good),” he said, choosing his words carefully. “Just to get the focus on just winning a game and playing. Because, yeah, it was pretty emotional. Everybody felt that from (Saturday) night.”
Thanks to the ugly, violent win over Pittsburgh, the Bruins (20-8-2) were also without the injured Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelly, among others.
Defencemen Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuk were sidelined with earlier injuries. And the Bruins’ defensive woes were intensified Sunday when Dougie Hamilton exited after the first period with a lower-body injury after a collision with Leafs blue-liner Carl Gunnarsson.
Boston coach Claude Julien said Hamilton was to return home Monday for medical evaluation but was hopeful that Boychuk might be close to returning to the lineup in his absence during the remaining three games of the Canadian road trip.
Peter Holland and Jay McClement scored for Toronto (16-12-3) before an announced crowd of 19,165. The Leafs led 1-0 in the first and then cut the lead to 3-2 early in the third before Boston scored two insurance goals.
Julien attributed his jury-rigged team’s success to the organization’s focus on playing a two-way game, whether it be wearing a Boston or AHL’s Providence jersey.
“The way we play is a very demanding way of playing but we feel our scouts and upper management have done a good job of giving us the types of players who can play that game,” he said. “So even with the guys being called up, they play a very similar style back in Providence. And we’re asking them to do the same thing here.
“It’s about believing what your team’s all about. Going out there and doing it, whether you’re a young player or an older player. Our game can never change.”
The Leafs, who beat Ottawa 4-3 in a shootout Saturday, controlled the early going and led 1-0 after the first. But the Bruins’ three-goal outburst in the second period, including a pair of power-play goals in a 94-second stretch, left the Leafs in their wake.
“The first period it seemed like we had our legs, we were doing a lot of things,” said Toronto coach Randy Carlyle. “Then we take the one penalty and their (tying) goal kind of flattened us and the next thing you know we’re killing (a penalty) again right after. And it was bang-bang, all of a sudden they scored two goals and the life went out of our hockey club.”
Toronto, which also gave up two power-play goals against the Senators, went 0 for 4 on its power play Sunday. The Bruins, who had to kill off a pair of penalties in the third, outshot the Leafs 39-32.
The focus before the game was on Thornton’s moment of madness.
“I agree, he did cross the line,” said Julien. “He got caught in the emotions. There’s nobody that’s proud of what happened (Saturday) night. Absolutely not. So he’s going to suffer the consequences and so will we.”
“Thorny did cross the line and some others did too,” Julien added. “But sometimes you have to man up to those things and I think he did.”
Julien saw a woozy Miller leave the game later after being crunched into the boards by Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf. The Boston coach admitted he asked the referee whether it was a penalty.
“It’s very minor and should impact him playing for us next game but it was a close call—head first into the boards,” said Julien.
The Leafs faced Chad Johnson, who was filling in to give Bruins star goalie Tuukka Rask a night off. Jonathan Bernier started for Toronto, after James Reimer’s 47-save performance in Ottawa.
It took the Leafs almost five minutes to get a shot on Johnson but they still showed jump and went ahead at 12:20 when Holland jammed a David Clarkson redirect of a Jake Gardiner shot into a gaping net for his third of the year.
Toronto, outshot in 26 of its first 30 games, outshot the Bruins 11-10 in the first period.
It took a while before shot No. 12 came, however. And Boston pulled even on the power play at 5:14 of the second period after Reilly Smith found Soderberg alone on the edge of the crease. Toronto’s Carter Ashton was in the penalty box for delay of game.
For Smith, who grew up in nearby Mimico, it was a point in his first appearance at the Air Canada Centre.
Twenty seconds after the goal, the Leafs went a man-down again with Gunnarsson sent to the box. And Krug made the Leafs pay with his eighth goal of the season at 6:47, beating Bernier with the hulking Zdeno Chara blocking the goalie in front.
Ten of the Bruins’ 15 power-play goals this season have come from their defencemen.
Boston outshot Toronto 8-0 in the second period before the home side finally put a shot on Johnson at 9:57. Defenceman Cody Franson had a good chance from in close with seven minutes remaining but the Bruins goalie made the save.
Phaneuf and sniper Phil Kessel ran into each other on a line change, flooring Kessel. It was that kind of period for the Leafs.
Smith hit the Toronto crossbar late in the period. Seconds later, Miller’s wrist shot from the blue-line slipped through Bernier at 15:58. It was his first NHL goal.
Boston outshot Toronto 17-9 in the second period.
McClement closed the gap to 3-2 just 37 seconds into the third, winning a faceoff in the Bruins’ end and then driving the Boston goal and slapping in his own rebound for his first of the year.
The Bruins had to kill off consecutive penalties to maintain their lead. The Leafs, meanwhile, needed a huge save from Bernier on Jordan Caron to stay within one as the clock wound down.
But he was powerless to stop Iginla after Milan Lucic accelerated past Phaneuf and fed Iginla in the crease for his sixth goal at the 16:00 mark.