TORONTO (CP) -- The Boston Bruins found a perfect way to start the all-star break.
One of the few things they hadn't accomplished yet this season was staging a successful third-period comeback. They can now scratch that off their shrinking to-do list.
Dennis Wideman and Zdeno Chara erased a two-goal deficit on Wednesday and Michael Ryder scored the shootout winner in a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Prior to that, the Bruins had been 0-6-2 in the handful of games they trailed 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 (training) 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."
Boston's surprising success is one of the top story lines so far this season.
That would have been the case no matter what happened against the Maple Leafs on Wednesday night, but it seemed only fitting that the unofficial first half ended the way it did. Boston trailed 3-1 at the second intermission and coach Claude Julien suggested it was about time the team registered its first comeback during the final 20 minutes.
"It wouldn't have been the end of the world (if we lost)," said Julien. "But for us, we thought it was important. We just lost the last couple of games ... and we wanted to make sure that we felt good about ourselves heading into the break."
He now heads to Montreal for all-star weekend and will coach an Eastern Conference team that includes Thomas, Chara and Bruins forward Marc Savard.
The lone representative for the Maple Leafs will be Tomas Kaberle. Toronto has fallen to 12th in the conference and is in need of a break for entirely different reasons than the Bruins.
"You've got to get away and rejuvenate the mind and the body," said defenceman Ian White. "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."
Ryder was one of three Boston shooters to beat Vesa Toskala in the shootout, helping drop Toronto's record in the tiebreaker this season to 2-5.
Chara, Wideman and Blake Wheeler scored in regulation for the Bruins (34-8-5) while Jason Blake, Lee Stempniak and Brad May replied for Toronto (17-22-8).
It had looked like Toronto's game. The Maple Leafs started with very little of the "performance anxiety" coach Ron Wilson says they've been experiencing during recent games at Air Canada Centre.
Simply scoring a goal was a good start. Blake ended the team's drought on home ice at 141 minutes 49 seconds when he tucked the puck around 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.