The Boston Bruins made it a near perfect November after blasting the Toronto Maple Leafs, 6-3, in the first end of a home and home at the Air Canada Center Wednesday night. Milan Lucic scored two goals and line-mate David Krejci scored a goal and added two assists, and Zdeno Chara picked up a goal and an assist to propel the Bruins' offense.
By virtue of the win, Boston moved into first place in the Northeast Division with 31 points, leapfrogging the Leafs in the process. It was the third meeting between the rival Original Six teams this season, and Boston has won them all rather decisively. The Bruins have outscored the Maple Leafs by a combined score of 19-5 in the three contests. The two clubs meet again at the TD Garden in Boston on Saturday night.
Boston spotted Toronto a 1-0 lead on a Mikhail Grabovski power play goal, then tied the game with a man advantage tally of their own from Lucic late in the first -- just four seconds after the expiration of the first penalty in a two-man advantage -- to even the score at 1-1 heading into the second.
Less than three and a half minutes later, Toronto would knot the score at 2-2. The two top NHL scorers combined on the goal, as Phil Kessel sent a beautiful pass from the right circle on the rush to Joffrey Lupul in the slot. Lupul made no mistake with his shot, sending the puck past Tim Thomas for his 12th of the season.
The Bruins took the lead for good late in the period, when Krejci found Chara rumbling through the slot. Chara sniped a shot high over Gustavsson's blocker side for his fifth of the year, staking Boston to a 3-2 lead going into the third period.
Just over three minutes into the stanza, Joe Corvo sent a pass from behind the net into the slot to Benoit Pouliot, who promptly snapped a wrist shot past Gustavsson for his third of the season and a 4-2 Bruins lead.
The Leafs pulled to within one at the 6:00 mark. Matt Frattin threw the puck from a wicked angle in the left wing corner along the goal line, and the puck hit off of Thomas' left pad and caromed between his legs and into the net to make it a 4-3 game.
But Boston's big line went to work again, as Krejci carried the puck behind the net and into the right wing corner, then proceeded to hit Lucic in front of the Leafs' net. Lucic had Luke Schenn draped all over him, but was still able to deflect the pass past Gustavsson for his second of the evening and 10th of the year with 4:39 remaining in regulation and a 5-3 lead.
Brad Marchand hit the empty net with 52 seconds left and Gustavsson pulled for an extra attacker to close out the scoring.
Thomas stopped 34 of 37 Toronto shots to win his ninth consecutive decision, improving his record to 12-4-1 on the season. Gustavsson was able to stop 34 of 39 Bruins offerings, but suffered the first loss in his last five decisions to drop to 8-5-0 for the year.
It was also the first loss for the Maple Leafs after three straight victories.
After stumbling through a horrible 3-7-0 October, the Bruins didn't lose a game in regulation during the entirety of November. They posted a 12-0-1 record, outscoring their opposition, 51-21, along the way. And they picked up 25 out of a possible 26 points for the month. Not too shabby.
Now let's see what the reigning Stanley Cup champs can do as the calendar flips to December, because November will be a tough act to follow.