TORONTO — Patience and persistence finally paid off for the Boston Bruins’ struggling top line.
Marc Savard scored the tiebreaking goal and Tuukka Rask stopped 36 shots to lead the Bruins to a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.
Nathan Horton also scored for Boston in the finale of 3-0-2 road trip.
Savard and wingers Milan Lucic and Horton accounted for Boston’s offense.
Playing its sixth game together as a unit, the trio had yet to score a goal in that stretch.
“We’ve been feeling like we got stronger as a group the last couple games and not been rewarded,” Savard said.
“That’s just the character we have, the three of us, we stuck together. We never got in any arguments, we actually worked harder together and had harder practices, too. Tonight we got rewarded.”
Lucic, who was without a point in his past seven games before assisting on Savard’s goal, agreed maintaining the right mindset was key.
“We’ve been talking about it lately, not to get negative and keep trying to stay positive and keep creating chances and keep moving our feet,” he said. “And I think that’s a big reason why we got chances and results tonight.”
Mikhail Grabovski had the Maple Leafs’ goal and James Reimer — making his second straight start for Toronto — had 31 saves.
Rask turned away several good chances by former Bruins star Phil Kessel, who has just one assist in nine games against Boston since being traded to Toronto prior to last season.
The only other NHL teams Kessel hasn’t scored on during his career — Anaheim, Calgary and St. Louis — are based in the Western Conference so he rarely faces them. The winger has shown recent signs of improvement against the Bruins, scoring the shootout winner in a game last month and looking energized on Monday. He finished with eight shots on goal.
“Right off the bat there he had a lot of good scoring chances,” Leafs teammate Tyler Bozak said. “It seems to not go in for him too often against these guys. He’s always getting the chances. Against a lot of other teams, a lot of those chances go in.
“He’s just a little snake-bitten against these guys.”
Rask’s best save against his former teammate came during the third period after Kessel beat a defenseman and got off a shot from in close.
“It was probably his best game against us that I’ve seen,” Lucic said. “He’s got great speed and he’s so quick and he’s really good getting that shot off.”
Grabovski gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead with his 14th goal of the season at 14:08 of the first period after Luke Schenn sent him on a breakaway with a long pass. The Belarussian got his ninth goal in the past 12 games with a nice deke on Rask.
Horton tied it at 7:56 of the second after the puck was cycled around the Toronto zone for some time. The winger sent a shot through a group of players that deflected in off the right post.
Savard got the winner with his second goal of the season at 15:30. He was almost at the blue line when he sent the puck through a screen by Lucic.