BOSTON — The Boston Bruins didn’t cure their offensive woes Monday night, but they scored just enough to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in the back end of a home-and-home Original Six series.
“It’s one of those things. You have to battle through it and that’s what we did tonight,” Patrice Bergeron said after tying the score in the third period and then delivering the deciding shootout goal in a come-from-behind 3-2 victory.
“You don’t want that to happen, but it’s going to happen in a season and it’s about finding your way to get out of it. We still have to be better, but it’s a step forward.”
The Bruins, who scored just six goals on their recently completed 1-3 road trip, fell behind 2-0 on second-period goals by Joffrey Lupul and Nikolai Kulemin. Then Milan Lucic, demoted in a line shakeup aimed at generating more scoring, burst around the right side and scored his first goal in 16 games.
That was in the second period and Bergeron, off great work by a rushing defenseman Dougie Hamilton, scored his ninth goal of the season in the third period, a backhander goalie James Reimer probably should have stopped.
Tyler Seguin and Bergeron scored in the shootout and Tuukka Rask, who gave up a goal to Tyler Bozak in the first round of the shootout, forced Nazem Kadri wide and then stopped Kulemin to end the game.
For Rask, it was the eighth win in nine career decisions against Toronto, the team that drafted him and traded him to Boston. He also improved to 4-1 in shootouts this season and 12-8 in his career.
And his team was able to escape and get a big win, with the Montreal Canadiens coming to town Wednesday night. The old rivals are tied atop the Northeast Division. The Canadiens visit Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.
Bruins coach Claude Julien, who made the line changes with his “tired” team, liked the way his guys came on after a rough start, which allowed the Bruins to beat the Leafs for the ninth time in the last 10 meetings.
“To me, it was a gutsy effort. Not a pretty effort but a gutsy one. And until they scored their second goal, we really weren’t that good,” he said. “I think we’re a little heavy right now in our play. We’ve lost some speed and everything else that comes with it. It was a gutsy effort from our part. After they scored the second goal, we got ourselves going.”
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said, “It’s a big win for us. We have an even bigger game coming up on Wednesday.”
By the time the score was tied and on the line in the third period, Julien, who had his team skip the morning skate as he looks for endurance answers, put his top lines back together. After getting a stout first two periods from left winger Daniel Paille, who moved up on the depth chart and had five shots on goal in the first 40 minutes.
The Leafs (and Reimer) have lost all four shootouts this season — all in the last eight games — and Reimer is just 3-8 in his career. But Toronto got three of a possible four points in the home-and-home set.
“We are coming out of the wrong end of it, but at the end of the day a point is a point,” Kadri said. “Like I said before, they add up a lot quicker than no points.”
After a scoreless first period, Lupul, returning from a two-game suspension after a hit, converted a power-play pass from defenseman Jake Gardiner at 2:04 of the second.
Less than six minutes later, Kadri, who has been on fire, hit Kulemin with a breakaway pass between defensemen Andrew Ference and Aaron Johnson and beat Rask. It was Toronto’s ninth shot of the game, after the Leafs scored three goals on just 13 shots Saturday night.
But Lucic ended his drought by breaking in around defenseman Cody Franson and scoring at 9:49 to cut the deficit in half.
NOTES: The Leafs fell to 14-2-1 when leading after two periods. … Phil Kessel’s woes against his former team continued. The fleet winger has just three goals and nine points and is a minus-21 in 21 games against the Bruins. … In addition to shaking up the lines, the Bruins also played a home game in their white jerseys. … The Bruins remained two men short on defense, with Johnny Boychuk missing his second straight game with a foot injury that has him day to day and joining defense-mate Adam McQuaid (shoulder) on the sideline. Julien revealed that McQuaid is expected to miss four to six weeks with his injury, a longer prognosis than the original three to four weeks. He missed his third straight game Monday night. … Toronto defenseman John-Michael Liles was out after suffering a foot injury against the Bruins on Saturday. … Lupul played his 100th game in a Leafs uniform. … The Maple Leafs host the Panthers Tuesday night. … Montreal won during its first trip to Boston this season, and the Bruins won up north. … Kadri has 35 points in 33 games.