BOSTON – Patrice Bergeron waited almost a full season to get back on the ice, and even longer to get back on the board.
The Bruins forward scored his first goal of the season – and first in more than a year – to help Boston open an early lead on Thursday night, but the Toronto Maple Leafs scored four in a row to win 4-2 and snap a five-game losing streak.
“It was great to just get back at it, play hockey, have fun,” said Bergeron, who missed the last 72 games and the playoffs last season with a severe concussion. “It’s my passion, and obviously scoring goals is a part of it.”
Anton Stralman, who tipped in a Bruins goal to give Boston a 2-0 lead in the first, broke a 2-2 tie with 9:14 left in the third period. Vesa Toskala stopped 26 shots for Toronto, which had lost twice in regulation and three times in shootouts since opening the season with a victory over the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.
Mike Van Ryn and Nik Antropov also scored for the Maple Leafs, who hit the post twice against an empty net in the last minute before Niklas Hagman scored from beyond the blue-line to make it 4-2.
It was the second straight game that Toronto came back to tie it after falling behind 2-0 in the first.
“It’s a young team and they’re not going to give up and they’re not going to think, ‘Oh, here we go again from last year or the year before,”‘ Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “This group seems to really enjoy playing with each other, and tonight was a lot of fun.”
Tim Thomas made 33 saves for the Bruins.
Blake Wheeler scored 31 seconds after Bergeron to give Boston a 2-0 lead late in the first period, but the Maple Leafs came back.
“I guess we kind of took them lightly, like we were going to run them out of the building,” said Milan Lucic, who had the hit of the night when he shattered the plexiglass with a check on Van Ryn. “But they kept working and working and working.”
Bergeron last scored on Oct. 13, 2007, five games before he was lost for the season after being knocked unconscious when Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Randy Jones hit him from behind and smashed his face into the glass. Bergeron was on the verge of returning when the Bruins were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round by Montreal.
“He’s been working hard, he’s been playing well,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Hopefully this is something that will get him going.”
Bergeron’s goal gave Boston a 1-0 lead with 4:28 left in the first period. Wheeler made it 2-0 when he took a pass at the Bruins’ blue-line and brought it down the right side, where he backhanded it past Toskala and off Stralman’s stick into the net.
Lucic put Van Ryn through the glass 20 seconds into the second period, sending shards of glass flying into the crowd and raining down on the Leafs defenceman’s neck. Two fans were treated for cuts on their faces and taken to the hospital for further treatment, and two others cut their hands touching the glass and stayed to watch the game.
All the fans in the first two rows were moved to a luxury suite.
About six minutes later, Van Ryn scored Toronto’s first goal, and Antropov tied it two minutes after that.
“At least I’ll get on TV,” Van Ryn said. “I’m still itchy. It seems like it’s caught everywhere on me. … It just exploded. I feel bad for the lady that got cut.”
Notes: The Bruins have scored first five times in seven games. … The Bruins did not get a shot on goal until 9:44 into the first period. The Leafs did not allow a shot in their last game, against Anaheim, for the final 7:46 of the second period and all of the third. In all, they went 37:20 in regulation without allowing a shot. (The Ducks got three shots in overtime). … Phil Kessel and Marc Savard had scored 11 of the Bruins’ 18 goals coming into the game. … P.J. Axelsson, who missed three games with muscle spasms, returned. … Wilson said Luke Schenn is “more than likely staying” when the team has to decide whether to pay his contract or return him to juniors.