TORONTO – The Boston Bruins were in no mood to celebrate.
After polishing off the franchise’s first month without a regulation loss in more than four decades, the defending Stanley Cup champions acted is if they’d been there before. It’s one of the main reasons they should be considered among the favourites again.
“I think it was a pretty good month,” forward David Krejci said after Wednesday’s 6-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. “We were playing some great hockey and we were having so much fun off the ice. It was a pretty good experience.
“But the season’s long, we’ve got about 60 games left, it’s going to be a battle. We’ve got to forget what happened and get ready for the future.”
The hockey world won’t be so dismissive of the feat. The Bruins were sitting dead last in the Eastern Conference as October came to a close and reeled off a 12-0-1 record in November to jump up to second.
The last time an NHL team accomplished the feat was San Jose in March 2008. The last time a Bruins team did it was January 1969.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” said goaltender Tim Thomas. “It might be one of those things that only happens … well, for a lot of guys it won’t even happen once in their career, right? For anybody who has played for the Bruins their whole career, obviously no one’s done that since 1969.
“Unfortunately, the way the world works and the way this league works, November’s gone. It’s behind us. This is December.”
On Wednesday, Milan Lucic led the way with two goals while Krejci added a goal and two assists. Zdeno Chara, Benoit Pouliot and Brad Marchand also scored for Boston (15-7-1), which last lost in regulation on Oct. 29 in Montreal.
Mikhail Grabovski, Joffrey Lupul and Matt Frattin replied for Toronto (14-9-2).
The Leafs pushed the Bruins to their limit in the first of back-to-back meetings between the Northeast Division rivals. They’ll go at it again in Boston on Saturday night.
“That’s a good hockey team,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. “They seem to have our number. I was actually pleased with the way we played. Unfortunately, they got five or six power plays and we really only had one and a half and I thought we worked hard enough to draw a few more penalties but we didn’t. …
“If we keep playing like that, we’ll eventually beat these guys.”
As it is, the Bruins have won all three games involving the teams this season by a combined score of 19-5.
The gap between them hardly seems that wide. Wednesday’s game was among the more entertaining played at Air Canada Centre this season, with two quick teams going back and forth and creating all kinds of scoring chances.
“They’re a legit good team,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of the Leafs. “I think the reason we’ve been successful is we’ve never lost respect for them and we come prepared to play them.”
Thomas has played a major role in the turnaround. He finished with 34 saves to pick up a ninth straight victory, the first time the reigning Vezina Trophy winner has put together a personal winning streak that long.
His biggest stop came late in the first period when he denied NHL scoring leader Phil Kessel on a breakaway.
“Well, I saw Phil coming down on the breakaway and I quickly thought ‘Man, I know he wants to score really bad,”‘ said Thomas. “I didn’t really think about what he was going to do. I just decided to play him honestly.”
The Bruins pulled away for good with less than five minutes to play in the second period. That’s when Chara jumped into the rush and beat Jonas Gustavsson with a heavy wrist shot to make it 3-2. Toronto would never close the gap.
Boston salted it away with a couple third-period goals, including one into an empty net by Marchand.
“I don’t think the score was too respectful for how the game was,” said Frattin. “It was a nice, close, intense game—fast and hard-hitting. It was a good game. Kind of felt like a playoff game.”
The most important thing for the Bruins is they’ve managed to rediscover the form that carried them through the playoffs in the spring. A 3-7-0 record to start the season is now long forgotten.
“I think we felt we were a better team than what we showed in October,” said Julien. “Where we were certainly didn’t make us happy. So we just kind of picked up our game and decided to play the way we can.
“It made a big difference.”
Notes: The Leafs went 7-6-1 in November. … Cody Franson, Colton Orr and Philippe Dupuis sat out for Toronto. … The Bruins scratched Jordan Caron and Steve Kampfer. … Leafs goalie James Reimer, sidelined since Oct. 22 with concussion-like symptoms, is expected to serve as the backup for Saturday’s game in Boston. … Announced attendance was 19,643.