The Boston Bruins couldn’t keep the calendar from flipping to December. They just wanted to make sure nothing else changed.
”During November, we’ve been playing really well,” said defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who scored a goal to help the Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 on Saturday night — their 13th win in 14 games. ”We just needed to make sure we started December the same way.”
Tuukka Rask stopped 21 shots and the Bruins beat the Maple Leafs for the fourth straight time this season, and the second straight game. Nathan Horton and David Krejci each had a goal and an assist for the Bruins, who have outscored their closest pursuer in the Northeast Division 23-6 this season.
Rask made his first start since the day after Thanksgiving, a 3-2 shootout loss to Detroit that was the only blemish on Boston’s otherwise perfect November.
”It’s always tough (to sit), no matter if you win or lose,” Rask said. ”You’re eager to keep the winning streak going, at least give the team a chance to win.”
The backup for Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas, Rask has won four of his last five — allowing a total of nine goals. He said he did not let it bother him that he was in the net for the only loss in November, but coach Claude Julien indicated otherwise.
”It was nice to see him smile after the game,” Julien said. ”He was really upset after the last time. He played well, but it was the end of our streak. As far as I’m concerned, he’s played well.”
James Reimer stopped 26 shots in his first game in the net since leaving an Oct. 22 game against Montreal with an injury that was not disclosed. He had not lost in regulation in his previous six starts.
”He was very solid, looked like he hadn’t missed a beat,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. ”But we didn’t help him very much.”
Chris Kelly also scored for Boston, and Milan Lucic had a pair of assists. Mikhail Grabovski scored Toronto’s only goal.
The Bruins celebrated their 100th consecutive sellout, a streak that began Dec. 5, 2009, when Phil Kessel returned to Boston for the first time since he was traded to Toronto. Fans came to boo him then, but they have largely ignored him after Boston won the Stanley Cup last season without him.
”It’s such a great feeling when you have the whole city behind us. We saw that in the playoffs,” defenseman Zdeno Chara said. ”A lot of the time they’re so loud it almost feels like we have an extra guy on the ice. So it’s a big ”Thank You” to tem, and hopefully it will be another 100.”
Kessel, tied for the NHL lead with 32 points, did not have a goal or an assist. He has two goals and five assists in 16 games against the Bruins.
The Bruins went 12-0-1 in November — their first month without a regulation loss since January 1969 — to go from last place to second in the Eastern Conference, and first in the division. Boston’s 14-game streak without a regulation loss is its longest since recording at least one point in 17 straight games in 1983.
After a scoreless first period, Horton got the puck behind the Maple Leafs’ net and forced Dion Phaneuf to choose between coming at him and covering the slot. When the Toronto defenseman skated toward Horton, he gently flipped it to Krejci as he crashed the crease and beat Reimer on the stick side.
But just 48 seconds later, Grabovski one-timed a slap shot from the right circle past Rask, dropping to his knee as he delivered.
The Bruins went up 2-1 with 7 minutes left in the second when Rich Peverley passed the puck through traffic in the middle to Kelly who beat Reimer. Johnny Boychuk made it 3-1 at 3:06 of the third period when the puck trickled out to him at the right point and he slapped it off Reimer’s glove for the goal.
Horton added an insurance goal in the third period.
Notes: Reimer was activated from injured reserve before the game. … Toronto RW Joffrey Lupul, who had a league-high 19 points in November, had his seven-game point streak snapped. … It was Kessel’s 400th career game. The Toronto right wing was taken fifth overall by Boston in the 2006 draft. He was traded to Toronto in the summer of 2009. … Boston’s Joe Corvo picked up his first career NHL major. It was his 592nd career game. … Toronto snapped its streak of eight straight games with a power-play goal. … The Bruins have not lost in regulation since a 4-2 loss to Montreal on Oct. 29.