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Bruins 2, Maple Leafs 1

Bruins feeling good after this trip

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By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / January 4, 2011

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TORONTO — Some oldtimers still refer to this city as Toronto the Good. For the Bruins last night, it was practically too good to be true.

“Hey, eight out of 10 points on the road trip,’’ said Boston winger Shawn Thornton, following a 2-1 win over the Maple Leafs that left the Bruins with a 3-0-2 mark on their five-game holiday trip. “Had you offered that before the trip, even the cheapest guy in the room would have paid for it.’’

And who is the cheapest guy in the Boston dressing room?

‘You know . . .,’’ mused a cautious Thornton, his eyes darting around a jubilant dressing room after the victory, one that featured three dozen saves by Tuukka Rask, “. . . I get in enough trouble with what I say in here, so I think I’ll leave that alone.’’

Pinning the tail on the Spoked-B skinflint aside, it was a victory that fattened up the egos of a number of Black-and-Golders, including:

■Rask (yanked after 20 minutes in his start Saturday night in Buffalo): He allowed a Mikhail Grabovski jailbreak goal with 14:08 gone in the first. On Sunday, coach Claude Julien sounded as if he might not start Rask until Zdeno Chara was crowned King of Lilliput.

“Did I fake you guys out,’’ said a smiling Julien, addressing the media. “If I did, it wasn’t intentional.’’

■Nathan Horton: He not only scored a goal (his first since Dec. 11), but added an assist, giving him his first two-point game since Dec. 7. The ex-Florida power forward slipped into near hibernation status for most of December, so it was especially encouraging to the entire lineup for him to reconnect with his game.

“I don’t know if you could see it on the ice,’’ said Horton, “but, yeah, it was a relief.’’

■Marc Savard: The silken-handed pivot hammered home his second goal since returning from post-concussion woes and he finished a plus-2, with two shots on goalie James Reimer. Like many better centers, he thinks to pass first, last . . . but not always.

“He even told me on my goal that he had his stick ready to fire on that one,’’ noted Horton. “He’s actually got a very good shot. And we talked about it before, that if he shoots more, then that helps all of us as a line.’’

■Boston’s six-man defensive corps: The group connected for four goals in Buffalo, but they also were on the ice for six goals off Sabres sticks. They played as a cohesive unit and helped immensely in and around Rask’s crease. Overall, it was the best defensive effort of the trip.

The Leafs jumped on the board first, with Grabovski racing in on a clear breakaway for the 1-0 lead. Rask had little chance. Perhaps he could have challenged more by abandoning his net and attempting a poke check on the runaway Belarusian, but that’s risky business. Chances are Grabovski would have deked around him between the circles and finished with a soft ENG push.

“Tough crowd to see the puck anyway,’’ said Rask. “I didn’t see where it was till the last minute, and then it was too late.’’

Moments before the Grabovski strike, Tyler Seguin attempted to one-time a Mark Recchi feed, both wingers working up high in the Toronto zone. Seguin’s blaster never made it on net, the deflection ultimately leading to a Luke Schenn-to-Grabovski feed that Grabovski turned into money.

Boston’s equalizer came as the game’s midpoint approached and likely all of Bruins Nation about to give up on the ham-handed trio of Milan Lucic-Savard-Horton. But as if hearing the Bruins Fan Club about to punch his one-way ticket to Winnipeg, Horton finally connected.

The low-producing winger curled into the slot from the left wing circle and beat Leafs netminder Reimer with the wrister. Oh, the magic of Manitoba. Dennis Seidenberg collected the lone assist at 7:56.

Perhaps the Horton goal served to prime the pump of confidence, because his entire line was back to pick up a point at 15:30 when Savard nailed in a one-timer from up near the blue line (foreign territory for the slick-handed pivot, who usually works much lower in the zone).

Lucic got the play going with his goal-line feed to Horton at the outer edge of the left wing circle. Horton alertly spotted Savard up high, made a Savard-like smooth-criminal feed up to him and Savard dropped the composite hammer on it. Bruins, 2-1.

“A lot of good things tonight,’’ said Julien. “I felt we were a little flat in the first period, but we found a way to get it going and were able to grind it out. Nice trip, eight of 10 points. You want to be greedy and get 10, but nice trip.’’

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