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Bruins 5, Maple Leafs 4

Bruins hold off the Leafs

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By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / March 7, 2012
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TORONTO - The way Tim Thomas’s luck has been running, even a two-goal third-period lead was not safe.

At 13:13 of the third, Toronto’s Mikhail Grabovski, on a two-on-one rush, snapped a shot past the glove of the Bruins goalie. Less than two minutes later, Zdeno Chara was sent off for boarding. With 16.8 seconds remaining, Chris Kelly was called for delay of game.

But in the end, luck was on Thomas’s side Tuesday night. During six-on-four play, Toronto failed to score the equalizer, and the Bruins squeezed out a 5-4 win over the Maple Leafs before 19,684 at the Air Canada Centre. The Bruins halted a two-game losing streak with the much-needed victory.

“Fortunately, it worked out that way,’’ Thomas said. “I don’t feel that bad. I’m personally in a little bit of a bad-luck streak where there’s a lot of screens, funny bounces, spinning pucks, and such.

“How you break out of that is to work hard. The team really helped me in that category. We worked hard tonight. Even in the final minute, we finished it out to get the 2 points.’’

Thomas pointed to a second-period Phil Kessel goal, which the ex-Bruin netted during a five-on-three power play. Thomas got his glove on the shot, but the puck rattled around his glove, ticked off his skate, and dribbled over the line at 9:52, tying the game at 3-3.

“It hit me straight in the palm, then it bounced/spun out onto the back of my webbing,’’ Thomas explained. “The puck’s spinning, so you know how it goes when it hits the webbing. It’s like a wheel. It spun off there, off my foot, in.

“That’s the kind of luck I’m having right now. I was happy to get out of here with the win.’’

Thomas (25 saves) had a pair of roommates to thank. Tyler Seguin and Jordan Caron, who share living quarters in Boston, each put two pucks behind Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson (28 saves).

Seguin tipped a Chara shot into the net at 2:02 of the second for his first strike. At 16:09 of the second, with Gustavsson leaning the wrong way, Seguin dumped a quick slapper into the net to give the Bruins a 5-3 lead.

“They have been big. They deserve credit,’’ Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Seguin and linemates David Krejci and Milan Lucic. “It’s something we need right now - our top players to be our top players.’’

But the primary difference-maker was Caron. The third-line right wing hasn’t had the smoothest of seasons. He has been assigned to Providence six times. Julien has made Caron a healthy scratch for 19 games.

But if Caron continues to play the way he has the last two games, he need not worry about being a healthy scratch or AHLer again this season.

“Jor-dan Car-on, ladies and gentlemen,’’ Seguin said. “It’s amazing to watch.’’

Caron had a goal and an assist in Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Rangers. He was even better against the Leafs. In 14:20 of ice time, Caron had two goals, one assist, and landed four shots.

With the club desperate for scoring punch from its bottom-six forwards, Caron has responded with some varsity hockey.

“When it goes in once, that gives you that confidence boost and pushes you to keep going,’’ Caron said. “You feel like you have more time with the puck. That’s really important.

“It slows down a little bit and you see the play a little bit better. You see how it’s going. It comes with time and confidence. The more you play a regular shift, that’s something that’s big. It gets your legs going.’’

In the first, Caron wiped out a 1-0 deficit, driving hard to the net and jamming a backhand rebound through Gustavsson at 13:58.

Caron continued to skate a big-boy game in the second, when the Bruins exploded for four goals. He lugged the puck down the left-side wall, carried Luke Schenn to the net, and threw the puck on goal. Gustavsson stopped the shot, but Kelly scored on the rebound, thanks to Caron’s power move. Kelly’s goal gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead at 2:43.

Later in the second, Caron found the back of the net again. Chara skated down low, found an opening between Schenn and Jake Gardiner, and threaded a cross-crease pass far post. With Schenn and Gardiner caught out of position, Caron slam-dunked the puck into an empty net at 12:34.

It was yet another heavy game from Caron. He was thorough in all the areas usually dominated by strong power forwards.

“It just goes to show that you really do need patience with young players,’’ said Julien. “Once he gets going, you give him more ice and encourage him to keep playing that way. You’ve got to give him that opportunity.

“He’s been around and in and out the last couple years. Right now, he’s starting to get his confidence. We’re starting to see the things we saw from him when he played junior - a power forward who can take pucks to the net and really finds those loose pucks around the net area.

“He’s not only showcasing that, but he’s finishing his checks. He’s a big, strong kid. That’s what we’ve expected from him. That’s what we’re starting to see from him now.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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