TORONTO — Chris Bourque took a baby step out from behind his legendary father’s long shadow at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
He connected for his first goal as a Bruin and then watched it stand up as the lone goal in a thorough, 1-0 win over the Maple Leafs.
“It’s a huge weight off me, to be honest,’’ said a beaming Bourque, whose only other NHL strike came with the Capitals more than four years ago.
“I’ve been putting pressure on myself to score, and this really felt good to contribute. I knew I had the capability of doing it, but it’s a matter of going out there and getting it done.’’
Front to back, it was one of the Bruins’ best showings of the new season. Tuukka Rask made 21 saves for his 12th career shutout, while the Bruins peppered the Leafs’ James Reimer with 34 shots. It was a strong reversal from two nights earlier when Boston’s defensive game, in the opinion of coach Claude Julien, went “brain dead’’ in a lackluster 7-4 loss to the Sabres at TD Garden.
“We cleaned up our defensive game,’’ said Julien. “And I thought their goaltender played really well. But it was more about us clearing up our defensive game. We were sloppy against Buffalo.’’
Bourque’s goal, his first in the league since Dec. 30, 2008, against Buffalo, came with 8:54 gone in the first period. The 27-year-old winger rushed to the net as Kelly and Peverley traded passes off the rush. A Peverley dish from the right wing caught Kelly around the near faceoff circle, and then Kelly dished a blind backhand relay across the crease that found Bourque tucked in behind defenseman Cody Franson. A quick mash and Bourque doubled his NHL goal production.
“All of a sudden, Bourque, all of a sudden!’’ Julien said to his game-winning goal scorer after the game, the media milling near the winger’s locker.
And with a wide smile, Bourque looked up at everyone and said, “Always a good sign, eh?’’
Especially good for Bourque because Julien told him before the game, as a means of motivation, that he’d better score or would find himself subjected to a torturous practice the next day. It was all a joke of course, but sometimes humor hits the intended mark.
“Today was a perfect day,’’ said Bourque. “I don’t know why, but I came in here clear-headed, feeling like I could play like there was nothing to lose.’’
Bourque’s other NHL goal came against Sabres netminder Ryan Miller. Bourque put a rebound over Miller’s glove after teammate Dave Steckel was denied on the doorstep.
“So both similar, I guess, in that they came off bang-bang plays,’’ he said. “I still have the puck from that game, but to be honest, getting this one, my first with the Bruins, means more.’’
The Leafs put the tying goal in the net less than three minutes after the Bourque goal, Franson wiring in a shot from long range with a lot of traffic in front of Rask.
It turned out to be too much traffic.
Referee Ian Walsh immediately waved off the strike because Leafs forward Nazem Kadri banged into Rask at the top of the crease. Replays showed that Kadri was pushed into Rask by Kelly, which meant the goal should have been allowed.
“Kind of a tough call,’’ said Rask. “I wasn’t in my crease, but I wasn’t way out, either. And I’m not going to be diving on a play like that, obviously.’’
With 6:30 gone in the second, the Bruins had a goal of their own called off.
Brad Marchand tripped over Reimer and was flat on the ice, in obvious pain, for a few seconds behind the goal line when the puck went in the net.
Walsh waved off the goal, though he never blew his whistle, later explaining to Julien that he blew the play dead because Reimer never had a chance to regain his feet after the collision with Marchand.
“Four games in six nights,’’ mused Julien. “Our guys showed a lot of character tonight.’’