The bottom line: The Bruins, putting up offensive numbers that belong in an Xbox console, scored an 8-5 blowout over Toronto last night before 17,565 at TD Banknorth Garden, stretching their home winning streak to 12 victories.
"The main thing is that we won the game," said Michael Ryder. "That's what we're looking at right now."
The worrisome reality, however, is that the Bruins haven't displayed the crispness in December they showcased during a one-loss November. They've dropped only one of seven games this month, but six of those matches have come against teams out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference.
Last night, Tim Thomas, so sharp through Octo ber and November, let in a softie for Toronto's first goal, then was chased after the second period (18 saves on 23 shots). The Bruins grabbed a 5-1 second-period lead, but sagged defensively against the never-quit Maple Leafs, who dominated the dirty areas and stormed back to make it a one-goal game heading into the final period.
But this season, the hare-instead-of-the-turtle Bruins have a flammable offense that goes a long way in masking any blemishes that might appear. Thirty-six seconds into the night, Marco Sturm gave his club a 1-0 lead. At 4:34 of the first period, starting goalie Vesa Toskala was headed for the bench after David Krejci gave his club a 2-0 advantage on Boston's fifth shot.
The Bruins tucked four second-period shots behind relief netminder Curtis Joseph. Then when Toskala came back to start the third, the Bruins brought out the whipping stick again by lighting up the Finn with two strikes.
Krejci: three goals.
Phil Kessel: two goals and an assist, now with points in 16 straight games (sixth longest scoring streak in club history).
Marc Savard: one goal and three helpers.
"I think you've got to be happy with the win," said Claude Julien, rapidly shedding his reputation as a trap-happy, defense-minded coach. "I thought offensively, we did a lot of good things - the way we scored goals, the way we went to the net, the way we shot the pucks, screens, everything else. There were a lot of good plays made offensively."
But in a twist that might usually go unnoticed in a 13-goal game, Manny Fernandez might have been the most important player for the Bruins.
Thomas, who acknowledged letting in a first-period shot by Pavel Kubina he should have stopped, expressed frustration after the game for the bad bounces that ultimately ended up in his net and led to his yanking. There was the Jeff Finger one-timer tipped by forward Alexei Ponikarovsky. The Nik Antropov deflection of forward John Mitchell's blast. Forward Mikhail Grabovski's net-front tuck-in after defenseman Mike Van Ryn's shot hit bodies in front. Finally, winger Jason Blake's power-play wrister that skimmed off Mark Stuart.
"I'd have to say most of the circumstances were out of my control," Thomas said. "The second, third, fifth goals, all tipped. Went in totally different spots than they were supposed to. The fourth goal ping-ponged to the guy at the open side of the net. The first goal was really the only one I had a chance at."
To halt the momentum of Toronto's four-goal second, Julien replaced Thomas with Fernandez. With the Bruins clutching a 6-5 lead, Fernandez responded. First, he stayed square to get a piece of a Ponikarovsky tip. Then when forward Dominic Moore sent a pass in front that Blake redirected, Fernandez, sliding left to right, stayed with the puck and stopped it with his chest at 4:13, keeping his team in the lead.
"I think I might have gotten lucky on those first two," said Fernandez (13 saves). "There's no trying to do anything. I was just trying to get good position on whatever came my way. But you still feel a little panic there. Hopefully, after a little while, they calm their senses down and we get going."
At 10:42, with Grabovski in the box for holding, Michael Ryder gave the Bruins the cushion they needed. After Zdeno Chara sent him a cross-ice backhand pass, Ryder barreled down the left wing, dangled around Finger, and uncorked a top-shelf wrister that rocketed over Toskala's glove. The Bruins capped the scoring barrage when Krejci banged home his third goal at 15:44 of the third.
"A goalie change is not because Timmy is playing bad," said Fernandez. "Just overall, we just needed a fresh shake back there to realize we weren't playing that great. Sometimes with a change like that, it calms everybody down a bit and we can get going. At the beginning, we were a little stiff on our sticks. But slowly we got better and more confident. We got those two goals that I needed. And that's it. That's the story."