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One goal never felt so good for Boston Bruins winger Brad Boyes

One goal, at a meaningful time in a meaningful game, was all that was needed to wipe away more than a month's worth of frustration.

"Thank God it went in," the Bruins winger said after Boston's 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Boyes had gone eight games without a goal before his shot from in close snuck through Andrew Raycroft's legs late in the third period.

It helped secure a big victory for the Bruins in the first of two straight road games against their Northeast Division opponents.

"It must have felt good for him to get an important goal at an important time," said goalie Tim Thomas. "I know I was excited when he got it."

The teams meet again on Tuesday night.

The insurance goal Saturday couldn't have come at a better time for Boyes or the Bruins. Both had slow starts to the season.

After racking up 69 points as a rookie last year, Boyes couldn't even go out to dinner in Boston early this season without being told by someone that he had been mentioned in trade rumours.

Having just signed a US$3-million, two-year contract during the summer and purchased a place to live, the last thing he wanted to do was move. The 24-year-old has already been dealt twice since being selected in the first round of the 2000 draft by Toronto.

The trade rumours have weighed heavily on his mind in the last month, which explains why Boyes was so thrilled after scoring in front of family members and friends at Air Canada Centre.

"When I'm not playing well, then I don't feel like I'm contributing to the team and that I'm letting the team down," he said afterwards. "That's the thing that really bugs me."

Boyes is the definition of a team-first player.

He's not flashy and doesn't like to stand out, either on or off the ice. It is a trait that the people who play with him notice and respect.

Just ask Sidney Crosby, who played with Boyes on Canada's team at the IIHF world championship last May. During a Bruins game in Pittsburgh last week, Crosby went straight to the visitor's dressing room to chat with Boyes after the game.

Patrice Bergeron, Boyes's linemate and roommate on the road, is another big fan.

"He's just a great guy," said Bergeron. "I love playing with him.

"He makes things happen out of nothing sometimes. You think the play is dead and he pulls a move out of his hat."

The goal on Saturday, No. 30 in his young NHL career, didn't require any such trickery.

From behind the net, Bergeron was able to work the puck in front as two Leaf defenders closed in on him. Boyes was all alone and scored for just the fourth time this season.

He was so excited afterwards that he forgot how the play unfolded.

"It's kind of a blank but it feels good," said Boyes. "Awesome."

It came at a crucial time as the Maple Leafs were trailing by a goal and had been pushing for the equalizer. Boston, which has won six of its last eight games, has seen many leads evaporate under similar circumstances this year.

"We've had that happen to us too many times," said Boyes. "I think enough's enough with that.

"Now it's a matter of holding the lead and playing well with the lead."

He figures it will come as the team continues to improve.

Boston started the year with a new GM (Peter Chiarelli), new head coach (Dave Lewis) and new captain (Zdeno Chara).

The Bruins struggled early but have played better of late. They have beaten Toronto twice in the last week and will be looking to do it for a third time on Tuesday.

The Leafs will have to keep a close eye on the rejuvenated Boyes, who has five of his 15 points against Toronto.

"I know I've got a role here and for me to do it and be successful makes me happy and everyone else, too," he said. "When I'm not playing well, I really take it to heart."


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