By: Cam Manning | Follow me on Twitter @cam_manning133
In an absolute dogfight of a game, the Boston Bruins emerged victorious over their original six rival Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 at TD Garden on Saturday night. This game came after the Bruins lost in regulation for the first time at home against the Seattle Kraken on Thursday. Boy, did they respond in a major way securing two points and pushing their division lead over Toronto to 11 points just past the midway point of the season? Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was the unlikely hero in this one scoring with just one minute and sixteen seconds left in the third period, propelling the Bruins to a 4-3 win.
It was a playoff-like atmosphere throughout the game, as we had chances on both ends of the ice early on in the first period. Bruins forward Brad Marchand had the first golden opportunity of the game but was thwarted by Maple Leaf’s goalie Matt Murray just a minute and thirty seconds into the game, keeping it scoreless.
Toronto would strike first on the powerplay as Maple Leafs forward Micheal Bunting would be the beneficiary of a great passing play from Mitch Marner to Maple Leaf’s captain John Tavares who went down the left board and centered it for a Bunting one-timer that beat Ullmark, giving the Maple Leafs the lead 4:45 into the first period. However, the Bruins responded as they have done all year long.
This time courtesy of their captain Patrice Bergeron who took on two Maple Leaf skaters on the forecheck and forced a bad turnover by Maple Leaf’s defenseman Mike Reilly who gave the puck right to Marchand, who showed brilliant patience and poise and found a net-driving Bergeron for the deflection knotting the score up at one after 20 minutes of play. The Bruins dominated shots on goal and scoring chances through the first period and got some energy from this fight between Nick Foligno and Wayne Simmonds.
It was a punch-for-punch type of game as the Maple Leafs would score off a great individual rush by forward Pierre Engvall, who serpentined his way through the neutral zone and wrong-footed Linus Ullmark from a distance for his 9th goal of the season, giving the Maple Leafs a 2-1 lead 2:43 into the second period. Not even four minutes later, David Pastrnak makes a brilliant defensive play, breaking up a D-to-D pass from Toronto, picking up the deflected puck on the left board, and beating Murray five-hole to even the score at two a piece.
Linus Ullmark may have only faced 21 shots during the game, but his best save of the night came in the second period against Maple Leaf’s defenseman Mark Giordano. At the 10:33 mark of the second period Maple Leafs forward Zach Aston-Reese sent a backhanded cross-ice pass to Giordano, who had a mini two-on-one near Ullmark; Giordano tried passing it, which got blocked by Taylor Hall right back to Giordano and Giordano wanted to stuff it in backhand but Ullmark stoned him.
After the Ullmark save, the Bruins’ fourth line rushed up the other way. Tomas Nosek made a beautiful move in the neutral zone, causing two Maple Leaf players to collide with one another. Nosek then entered the zone and passed it to Foligno, who found AJ Greer in the slot, and Greer made no mistake whipping a wrist shot past Murray for his first goal in 23 games giving the Bruins their first lead of the night. Heading into the second intermission, the Bruins held the 3-2 advantage and set up an exciting third period.
Not even four minutes into the third period, the Maple Leafs needed a big goal and got it from their all-world player Auston Matthews. Marner stole the puck from Lindholm, and Bunting picked up the puck and sent it to the front of the net, and the puck found Matthews, and he made no mistake roofing the puck over Ullmark and under the crossbar tying the game at three. The Bruins and Maple Leafs then kept exchanging chance after chance looking to break the deadlock, and that goal finally came from another unlikely source. After a brutal turnover by Tavares trying to make a pass out of his defensive zone, the Bruins capitalized and worked the puck around, and after Taylor Hall threw the puck towards the net, it found its way to Grzelyck, who wired a seeing-eye shot past Murray giving the Bruins the 4-3 lead late which would end up being the final score of the game.
Bergeron, Pastrnak, Greer, and Grzelyck all scored goals. Ullmark made 18 saves to help the Bruins avoid consecutive losses for the first time all season and snapped a four-game losing streak versus the Maple Leafs. The Bruins now improve to (33-5-4) and are 9-0-0 after suffering a loss on the year and look to keep the good times rolling as they host the Flyers on Monday for a Martin Luther King day matinee at 1 pm eastern time.