In the second period last night, Toronto winged 18 pucks on Tim Thomas.
One beat Thomas (a front-of-the-net jam by forward Jiri Tlusty), which wiped out a 1-0 Boston lead and gave the Maple Leafs life going into the third period.
"I felt our second period was poor," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "We stopped doing the things we had done so well in the last few games. They kind of took the game over from us. So we needed to get ourselves back into it in the third."
Phil Kessel did just that.
When Peter Schaefer gained the puck along the left wall early in the third, Kessel turned on the turbos and slipped behind defenseman Staffan Kronwall. Just as Kessel approached the blue line, Schaefer sent him the puck in a bang-bang play that could have been offside.
"I think it was close," acknowledged Kessel, who played one of his best games of the season (goal, assist, three shots, two takeaways, plus-2 rating in 14:49 of ice time). "It was pretty close."
Toronto coach Paul Maurice thought Kessel was offside, but didn't have a clear look on video after the game.
"It looked like it was, but I can't confirm it," said Maurice.
Kessel took the pass, put a fake on goalie Vesa Toskala, and slam-dunked a wrist shot with authority to give his club a 2-1 advantage that led to Boston's 4-2 victory before 16,659 at TD Banknorth Garden. The Bruins climbed into seventh place (they claim the tiebreaker with Philadelphia, which also has 88 points), remaining 2 points ahead of Washington and 5 points better than 10th-place Buffalo.
"That goal obviously gave us our second wind," said Julien. "We took it from there."
Touch and timeliness have been two elusive elements for the 2007-08 Bruins, who win on the thinnest of margins because of their offensively challenged style. But they exploded for three timely goals in the third, shaking off a power-play strike by Toronto defenseman Pavel Kubina.
At 10:54, with defenseman Ian White off for hooking, Boston opened up a 3-1 lead. David Krejci stickhandled on the boards until he saw Glen Murray with some open real estate in front of Toskala. Murray took the pass from Krejci, walked in front of Toskala, and beat the netminder with his 17th of the season.
"Net-front presence and going to the net," noted Julien. "Even the power play, Muzz gets the puck on the goal line. First thing he does is take it right to the net."
It was the second helper for Krejci, who has emerged as a soft-handed replacement for Marc Savard on the No. 1 line. In Tuesday's 6-2 win over the Leafs, Krejci scored and had an assist. Last night, Krejci helped open the scoring when he connected with Marco Sturm for the second time in two nights.
In the first period, Sturm, decked by forward Nik Antropov in the Bruins' zone, got to his skates when Krejci gained control of the puck and started the breakout. As Krejci waited for reinforcements, Sturm made a diagonal beeline to the far post with Antropov in pursuit. Krejci dangled down the left wing and considered his options - a nonexistent passing lane to Murray, a shot on Toskala, or a cross-ice feed to Sturm. Krejci chose the latter, opening up his blade and hitting Sturm with a tape-to-tape puck that the winger slipped past Toskala at 16:47.
"He's always been a calm person," Julien said of Krejci, pursued by Minnesota in the Manny Fernandez deal. "I don't think he gets overly excited or nervous. He thrives on it more than anything else. Last year, I know that in Providence at this time of year, he was by far their best player. It's not unknown territory for him to be a really good player. He just had to get confident here and get that opportunity to be a go-to guy."
Krejci almost became the goat, however, when his third-period holding penalty led to Kubina's power-play goal at 15:01, making it 3-2. But 37 seconds later, Schaefer gave his club a two-goal lead again with his ninth goal of the season. Thomas (30 saves) kept his net clean the rest of the way.
"We had a lot of guys stepping up," said Murray. "That's what good teams do."
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.