TORONTO (AP)—The Boston Bruins found a perfect way to start the All-Star break.
One of the few things they hadn’t accomplished this season was staging a successful third-period comeback. They can scratch that off their shrinking to-do list.
The Bruins improved to 1-6-2 when trailing after 40 minutes.
“No, I didn’t know (it was coming),” All-Star goalie Tim Thomas said of the comeback. “The only thing that was in the back of my mind was how well we’ve responded to almost every situation this year.”
That’s an understatement. Just look at the NHL standings.
Who would have guessed in September that the Bruins would be tied for first overall at this point in the season? No one, including their No. 1 goalie.
“When you’re in camp you don’t know exactly what you got,” said Thomas, who finished with 31 saves. “I could have believed it after the first 10 games but any time before that, if I was a betting man, I would have bet against it.”
Blake Wheeler and Martin St. Pierre also scored for Boston in the shootout. Wheeler also scored in regulation to help the Bruins (34-8-5) tie San Jose for the overall NHL lead. Jason Blake, Lee Stempniak and Brad May scored for Toronto.
“You’ve got to get away and rejuvenate the mind and the body,” Toronto defenseman Ian White said. “It’s the perfect time, right when you’re at the breaking point—you get a couple days off to recharge your batteries.
“We’re going to need that and come back ready to roll.”
Blake ended Toronto’s goal drought on home ice at 141 minutes, 49 seconds when he tucked the puck around Tim Thomas late in the first period, cashing in after some nice work by linemates Dominic Moore and Stempniak.
That was the 14th goal of the season for the rejuvenated winger, one short of his total during a disappointing campaign with the Leafs last season.
Even though Wheeler tied the game a shift or two after Blake’s goal, it didn’t seem to discourage the home team. The Maple Leafs displayed some speed during the second period and were rewarded with a couple goals.
Stempniak made it 2-1 at 4:13 of the second period not long after the Leafs had started a power play. He flipped the puck over a sprawled Thomas from the side of the net.
The team’s grinder line extended the advantage before the end of the frame. May was credited with his first goal as a Maple Leaf when he tipped in John Mitchell’s shot off the rush at 14:49.
That sent Toronto to the dressing room with a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes—a good sign since Boston hadn’t won when trailing after two periods all season.
However, the Bruins received four straight power plays in the third period and cashed in two goals with the man advantage.
“They’re just bad penalties,” Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “They might be picky to some people, but they’re penalties. It’s needless to take a penalty on the other side of the red line. You can’t defend those penalties.”
Wideman narrowed the score to 3-2 at 2:17 with a point shot that barely trickled through Toskala’s legs before Chara tied it roughly 12 minutes later.
The big defenceman skated in from the point and one-timed a beautiful pass from Marc Savard to quiet an ACC crowd that had started to anticipate an upset.
“We didn’t have a lot of jump,” Chara said. “I think we were lacking a little bit of quickness and weren’t making the right decisions.
“It’s that time of the year that you’re going to face some adversity, some challenges. It was a tight game.”
The Maple Leafs wore patches on their jerseys in honor of former player Ace Bailey … Nikolai Kulemin returned to Toronto’s lineup from an ankle injury … The Maple Leafs sent Jiri Tlusty to the Marlies of the AHL. … Savard has 426 points in 387 NHL games since Calgary traded him away in November 2002.
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