Boston Bruins

The Bruins knew a Saturday night showdown with the Maple Leafs at TD Garden would be a charged-up affair.

And it was a contest that did not disappoint, with a roaring crowd treated to an absolutely fantastic head-to-head between the Original Six rivals and league’s top two teams, capped by a Matt Grzelcyk game-winning goal scored with just 1:16 remaining in the third period of what finished as a 4-3 win for the Bruins.

“I think it was the first time in a while that we felt that good about our game and obviously we know the rivalry and how good of a team they are, so it was kind of a statement game for us,” Grzelcyk said after the victory. “We pride ourselves on not losing two in a row, so that was the focus tonight.”

With the victory, the Bruins avoided what would’ve been their first losing streak of the season, and captured their first win over the Maple Leafs since Nov. 15, 2019.

“I think the game meant more to us than I imagined before the game,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said. “I think that was my biggest takeaway. And I’m glad it did. We’re proud of not having lost two in a row, and there was a purpose to what we were doing. Not only because it was the second-place team in Toronto that we were playing, but we don’t want to lose two in a row. Because you get into a playoff [series], you lose two in a row, you’re in a bit of a hole.”

  • It was about as close to a playoff-feel as a January meeting can bring to the table, though Toronto did their best to quiet a rowdy Garden crowd with some early-game heroics at both ends.

    The Bruins looked ready to grab an early 1-0 lead when Brad Marchand found himself all alone to the left of Maple Leafs netminder Matt Murray. And though Marchand had Murray down, Murray was not out, and instead flashed the glove on Marchand an undeniable save of the year candidate.

    Sheldon Keefe’s squad then built off with a power-play goal, with John Tavares and Mitch Marner pulling off some slick passing to find Michael Bunting in front of the net for a look that beat Linus Ullmark at the 4:45 mark of the first period.

  • But the Bruins rebound with a late-period strike from Patrice Bergeron off a sweet dish from Brad Marchand.

    And in a career that’s seen Bergeron torch the Maple Leafs left and right, and in both the regular season and postseason, the game-tying marker represented a slight milestone of sorts for the Boston captain.

    With that goal being Bergeron’s 25th regular-season goal against Toronto, the tally broke him out of a tie with Evgeni Malkin and Eric Staal for the fourth-most goals against the Leafs since the start of the 2003-04 season. Only Daniel Alfredsson (28), Sidney Crosby (29), and Alex Ovechkin (41) have scored more over that span.

    It was also his 67th point against Toronto, which broke him out of tie with Crosby and into sole possession of third-most against the Leafs since 2003-04, with only Malkin (68) and Ovechkin (74) ahead of Bergeron there.

  • The equalizer set the stage for what was an end-to-end, goal-trading sequence between the teams, as the Bruins countered Pierre Engvall’s go-ahead marker with goals from David Pastrnak and A.J. Greer, while Auston Matthews put the Bruins in a blender early in the third period to knot things up at 3-3.

    All while both Murray and Ullmark mixed in some high-end saves throughout, and with Ullmark’s top denial of the Leafs coming with a second-period save on Mark Giordano.

  • “Unreal,” Montgomery said of Ullmark’s performance in the win. “He just keeps showing that he’s someone you can trust in big moments. The second goal [against], I haven’t looked back at it, but I haven’t seen him get beat from that area this year. But then he makes four big-time saves after that in the second period.

    “That 2-on-0 save? That’s big time.”

  • Jan 14, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) deflects a pass past Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Matt Murray (30) for a goal during the first period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 14, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) deflects a pass past Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Matt Murray (30) for a goal during the first period at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Bruins forward A.J. Greer returned to the Boston lineup for his first game action since Jan. 5 in Los Angeles, and scored his first goal since Oct. 18 and racked up two hits in just 5:11 of time on ice. Greer was also hit with a 10-minute misconduct at the end of the second period for his attempts to go multiple players on the Leafs.

    Boston’s win pushed their Atlantic Division lead over the second-place Maple Leafs up to 11 points, and with the Bruins having two games in hand over Toronto.

    Following the game, the Bruins announced a four-year, $19 million extension for Pavel Zacha. A valuable and versatile middle-six option, Zacha has recorded five goals and 25 points through 42 games with Boston.

    The Bruins will pick it back up Monday when they play host to John Tortorella and the Philadelphia Flyers in a 1 p.m. matinee at TD Garden.