|BOS||1||0||2||0||1 (3 - 4)||4|
|TOR||1||2||0||0||0 (2 - 4)||3|
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.
Toronto displayed good speed during the opening two periods and seemed to have the conference-leading Bruins reeling.
"We didn't have a lot of jump," said Chara. "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 momentum turned during a third period that saw the Bruins receive four straight power plays. Wideman and Chara each scored with the man advantage during that stretch to pull Boston even and send the game to overtime.
After the game, Wilson was lamenting his team's lack of discipline.
"They're just bad penalties," he 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."
Perhaps the only consolation for the rebuilding Leafs is that they put a scare into a good hockey team.
Thomas had to make five saves during overtime - when Toronto had a power play for 1:40 - and was beaten twice during the shootout. The Bruins have won four of five games against the Maple Leafs but they haven't been easy.
"The way they play us, I would guess that they would be having a lot more success than they've been having this year (if they always did that)," said Thomas. "They play us tough and hard and they're hungry.
"They're a very tough team to play against."
Notes: Announced attendance was 19,258 and included new Toronto FC midfielder Dwayne De Rosario ... The Maple Leafs wore patches on their jerseys in honour of former player Ace Bailey ... Nikolai Kulemin returned to Toronto's lineup from an ankle injury ... The Maple Leafs sent Jiri Tlusty to the AHL Marlies ... Patrice Bergeron (concussion), Milan Lucic (shoulder) and Andrew Ference (leg) sat out for the Bruins ... Savard has 426 points in 387 NHL games since Calgary traded him away in November 2002.
|Jason Blake (14) Backhand shot - ASST: Lee Stempniak (16), Dominic Moore (15)|
1 - 0 TOR
|Blake Wheeler (14) Tip-in - ASST: Aaron Ward (5), David Krejci (34)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Lee Stempniak (8) Wrist shot - ASST: Jason Blake (17), Dominic Moore (16)|
2 - 1 TOR
|Brad May (1) Tip-in - ASST: John Mitchell (10), Jamal Mayers (5)|
3 - 1 TOR
|PPG - Dennis Wideman (9) Wrist shot - ASST: David Krejci (35), Michael Ryder (16)|
3 - 2 TOR
|PPG - Zdeno Chara (11) Snap shot - ASST: Marc Savard (40), P.J. Axelsson (16)|
3 - 3 Tie
|1||L. Stempniak||B. Wheeler||1 - 1|
|2||N. Hagman||D. Krejci||1 - 1|
|3||J. Blake||M. St Pierre||2 - 2|
|4||N. Kulemin||M. Ryder||2 - 3|
|P.J. Axelsson Hooking against Jonas Frogren|
|Blake Wheeler Hi-sticking against Jonas Frogren|
|Alexei Ponikarovsky Holding against David Krejci|
|Mikhail Grabovski Holding against Byron Bitz|
|Pavel Kubina Holding against Stephane Yelle|
|Alexei Ponikarovsky Delay of game|
|Michael Ryder Hooking against Ian White|
|Martin St Pierre Tripping against Jason Blake|
|SA: 34||TOI: 64:52|
|Saves: 31||EV: 23 - 25|
|PIM: 0||PP: 7 - 8|
|SV%: .912||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 30||TOI: 64:51|
|Saves: 27||EV: 24 - 25|
|PIM: 0||PP: 3 - 5|
|SV%: .900||SH: 0 - 0|