TORONTO -- In the third period last night at the Air Canada Centre, with the score tied at 1-1, Wayne Primeau was sent to the penalty box for hooking.
He'd have company.
Nineteen seconds later, Andrew Alberts jabbed an errant high stick into the kisser of forward Matt Stajan, joining Primeau in the box. For 1:41, those two Bruins -- both significant penalty-killers -- would have to stew and watch the potent Toronto power play (fifth in the NHL at 20.6 percent entering last night) do their business.
With Alberts in the box and Paul Mara unavailable because of a leg injury sustained in the second period, Bruins coach Dave Lewis had no other alternative but to send Zdeno Chara and Brad Stuart out for the entire five-on-three kill.
Kill it they did.
With help from Patrice Bergeron and Mark Mowers, the two Boston defensemen prevented the Leafs from netting the go-ahead goal, allowing both infractions to expire.
The work paid off, as Glen Murray sprang free for a shot that rose above the glove of Andrew Raycroft -- the supposed soft spot in the ex-Bruin's repertoire -- for the winning goal at 5:35. For the second straight time in Toronto, the Bruins gained a cushion in the third period, as Marco Sturm and Brad Boyes added goals to power the club to a 4-1 win before 19,469.
"Another great win for us," said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who stopped a season-high 45 shots, including all 21 in the third period. "Coming in here, obviously they wanted to pick up their play from the last game. We withstood the pressure in the first period and got the game-winning goals in the third period. Huge game."
The lone Toronto goal was disputed by Lewis. With his club ahead, 1-0, in the second period, following Shean Donovan's first strike of the season (again, a riser over Raycroft's glove), Lewis saw a shot by forward Michael Peca deflect off traffic in front, off the skate of forward Nik Antropov, and past Thomas at 15:39.
Referee Kevin Pollock immediately waved off the goal, believing Antropov had intentionally kicked the puck into the net. But after a lengthy review, the goal was approved.
Several minutes before Antropov's goal, the Bruins lost Mara when he was slammed into the endboards by Chad Kilger. The hit dislodged a pane of glass and dropped the Bruins to five healthy defensemen, as Mara (14 shifts, 10:57 ice time) did not return.
The Bruins felt Mara's loss during the five-on-three. But instead of panicking and folding, as they did repeatedly earlier in the year, the Bruins did what their coaches instructed them to do.
First, take away defenseman Bryan McCabe's one-timer from the point. Check.
Second, prevent forward Kyle Wellwood from shuttling down-low cross-crease passes to Darcy Tucker for tap-ins. Done.
Third, funnel all Toronto shooters wide of the net, conceding bad-angle shots.
With all three tasks completed -- it didn't hurt that Thomas, tracking pucks perfectly all night, made several big-time stops -- the Bruins gained the momentum. And with that, the game.
"It was a really crucial time of the game," said Chara (a game-high 31:09, including 7:36 on the penalty kill). "Being down two men is not easy, especially with the power play they have. We tried to give them what we had to and take away what we could."
Then Murray, after a clearing chip off the boards by Mark Stuart and a clever setup by Petr Tenkrat, found himself with a clear look at an up-top opening. Murray said he just wanted to get the puck on net, and that he was fortunate it went upstairs on Raycroft (20 saves).
Sturm added an insurance goal after McCabe, whose left leg buckled when he started to kick off a rush, was slow to get off the ice. Then with Raycroft pulled, Boyes scored his second goal in two games, the first empty-netter the Bruins have recorded all year.
"This was the closest thing we've had to a playoff game," said Thomas. "If we want to get to the playoffs, we have to win games against teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"We had a couple guys out healthwise, but we had to step up. No excuses."