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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Patrice Bergeron Still Owns the Maple Leafs, Figuratively

You can have your Panthers, Stars and any other anonymous NHL team that nobody except their families care about. Give me Original 6 teams playing each other and I'm in hockey heaven. It is still early November but you'll be hard pressed to find a much more pleasing game than Bruins-Maple Leafs tonight at TD Garden. Boston (10-5-1) came out on top of Toronto (11-6-0) 3-1 in the first installment since last postseason.

Patrice Bergeron scored the last two goals to snap the 1-1 deadlock and Tuukka Rask (33 saves) is still better than James Reimer (31 saves) but you knew that already. A new wrinkle is that Boston's power play is actually decent: they scored twice this evening and couple that with a 3 for 3 penalty kill for a pretty rock solid special teams performance.

Granted the Maple Leafs played last night in Toronto vs. New Jersey but this is the NHL, no excuses (unless I'm protecting the Bruins of course). Zdeno Chara has become quite a weapon on the man advantage as he parks his monstrous frame in front of the net, good luck moving him. He scored the opening goal at 15:27 of the first period, assisted by Jarome Iginla and Torey Krug. Chara's third goal of the season (all on the power play) came after Iginla's shot was stopped but he tracked the puck behind the net then threw it out front for Chara to bat it in.

Joffrey Lupul had the honors of Toronto's lone goal at 16:52 of the second period as he uncharacteristically beat Rask with a wrist shot, high to his glove side. I wouldn't call it weak but it was normally a save that Rask makes in his sleep.

Apparently, Bergeron waits until the third period (and overtime) to do his damage against the Maple Leafs. First he scored the game-winner at 1:06 of the third period, a power play goal from Carl Soderberg and Reilly Smith. Bergeron's fourth goal of the season was the result of net front work and a juicy rebound that he lifted over Reimer's helpless glove.

Toronto had pressure on Rask but Bergeron clinched it with his empty netter at 19:38. Loui Eriksson won a race to the corner then saucered the puck towards the net where Bergeron beat his man and redirected it in.

The B's get five more days in town: they host the Lightning (12-4-0) on Monday afternoon (1, NESN) then close out this five-game homestand on Thursday vs. Columbus (6-10-0). Boston beat Tampa Bay in the season-opener 3-1 at the Garden on October 3 but that already feels like it was a million years ago. Expect a better effort from the Lightning, who have won their last four games and currently hold the best record in the Eastern Conference.

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