On Thursday night, for the third straight game, the Bruins took a lead into the third period. For the first time, they emerged with 2 points.
The Bruins halted an 0-1-1 slide with a blue-collar, 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs before 17,565 at TD Garden. The Bruins were coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to Washington on Tuesday in which the Capitals wiped out a 3-0 deficit.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “When you lose two games the way we did, I didn’t expect us, all of a sudden, to be this great team. I knew it was going to be tough. But what I wanted to see from our team is us battling through it. We did. They forechecked hard. We were able to get the puck out eventually. The goalie made some good saves. We battled and we found a way to score some goals the way we want to score them — with good net-front presence.’’
The scorching line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Tyler Seguin punched in three of the Bruins’ four goals. Seguin led the march with two, including an empty-netter at 19:45 of the third period.
Phil Kessel, the ex-Bruin whose trade brought back Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, and Jared Knight, submitted his usual Boston performance: no goals, no assists, two shots, on the ice for two opposing goals.
“It’s nice to see Siggy finally finishing,’’ Marchand said with a smile. “He was getting a little frustrated there early on. It’s nice for him to finally get a couple there and get his confidence up there.’’
It was the nature of the Bruins’ goals that pleased their boss: grinding along the boards, support from linemates, sprints toward the net.
At the other end, the Bruins weren’t as sloppy with the puck nor loose with their coverage as they had been during setbacks to Washington and Montreal. When necessary, they looked to Anton Khudobin (25 saves) to provide timely stops.
But the go-to players, once more, were Marchand, Bergeron, and Seguin. In the first period, Marchand created the first goal by winning a puck battle against Korbinian Holzer against the boards in the neutral zone. Because Holzer was engaged with Marchand, the Leafs were vulnerable on the back end. Seguin recognized the weakness.
Seguin found the puck, blew into the offensive zone, and barreled toward the net. Ben Scrivens (21 saves) turned back Seguin’s shot. But Bergeron, who had been following the play, had an easy tap-in at 19:07 to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
“Pretty indicative of what we’d asked from our players,’’ Julien said. “First one is a great effort by Marchand right in front of their bench, battling for the puck with two guys around him. That finally let Siggy get loose with the puck. He did a great job getting to the front of the net and cutting in. Bergy was following right there.’’
Nazem Kadri answered for the Leafs at 2:32 of the second during four-on-four play. With Johnny Boychuk caught up ice, Kadri and Clarke MacArthur converted a two-on-one rush against Dennis Seidenberg.
But Bergeron’s line connected with the counterpunch at 7:11 of the second. Again, Holzer was caught out of position. He tried to challenge Bergeron at center ice to prevent the center from gaining the red line. But Bergeron found Marchand on the left wing. At the same time, Seguin flew over the blue line to create the outnumbered rush.
Dion Phaneuf tried to recover. But Marchand slipped a cross-ice pass to Seguin. The right wing didn’t hesitate, snapping the puck past Scrivens to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
“Just one of those games where that line did a great job getting pucks past their D’s, working through it, and doing the grunt work,’’ Julien said.
The line’s hard-hat work was contagious. Late in the second, David Krejci netted the winning goal with a similar desire to enter the danger area.
The play started deep in the Bruins’ zone. Dougie Hamilton started the breakout by banging the puck off the glass. As the Bruins picked up speed through the neutral zone, Andrew Ference decided to join the rush. Milan Lucic picked the puck off the wall, spotted Ference, and gave the defenseman the puck.
Ference’s high-slot shot didn’t make it through traffic. But Krejci, who had been charging toward the cage, was in the right spot to find Ference’s rebound. Before Scrivens could recover, Krejci tapped the puck in at 18:03 of the second.
The Leafs kept fighting in the third. Jay McClement tipped Mikhail Grabovski’s shot past Khudobin to make it a one-goal game with 5:08 remaining in regulation.
The Bruins had blown two straight third-period leads. They knew that a third straight collapse would not be acceptable.
“We never talked about, ‘Let’s not blow a lead for the third straight time here,’ ’’ Julien said. “Certainly not a good message for your team heading into the third with a 3-1 lead.’’