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Late goals starting to add up against Bruins

Foes are fighting for playoff spots

Maple Leafs’ James van Riemsdyk celebrates a goal by teammate Tyler Bozak (right) that got by Bruins goaltender Chad Johnson with just 12 seconds left in the first period.

AP

Maple Leafs’ James van Riemsdyk celebrates a goal by teammate Tyler Bozak's (right) that got by Bruins goaltender Chad Johnson with just 12 seconds left in the first period.

TORONTO — The goal came with just 12 seconds left in the first period. And it wasn’t the first time it had happened.

The Bruins have been susceptible to late-period goals, allowing scores in the final minute too many times this season. With Tyler Bozak’s goal at the end of the first period of Thursday night’s 4-3 victory by the Maple Leafs, the Bruins have allowed five such goals in their last four games. They allowed two each to the Capitals and Flyers over the weekend.

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“We’ve got to execute better, especially in our zone, make that first simple play instead of thinking and worrying about the extra move or whatever,’’ defensive stalwart Patrice Bergeron said. “That’s when we get in trouble and we’ve been doing that. It’s about getting back to doing that, but also I liked the way we responded in the third and got back in the game.”

Still, the goal at the end of the first was, as Chad Johnson put it, “a little deflating, a lucky play. He just sort of spins around the net and hits their guy backdoor, bounces in. It was disappointing.”

Asked about the situation, especially of late, coach Claude Julien said he isn’t worried.

“Let’s put it this way: We’re in a position now to utilize our whole bench,” Julien said. “I can guarantee you there are situations there late in the period that if we’re in the playoffs it won’t be the same thing. Let’s not read too much into that stuff here. In the last minute, you normally put certain guys on, but right now I’m in a position where I don’t have to do that. We’re just playing and utilizing everybody.”

Playoff primers

These back-to-back games were never going to be easy, two nights in two cities on the heels of a difficult and tiring March. That the Red Wings and Maple Leafs are on the Eastern Conference playoff bubble made it harder for the Bruins.

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But it also meant Boston got a chance to look at two potential first-round playoff matchups.

“Obviously we’re watching the standings, where everything is lining up,” Brad Marchand said before Thursday’s game. “We’re not really concerned with who we’re playing, it’s more about just how it’s going to fall. We’re going to be prepared to play whoever it is and vice versa. We’re anxious to see how it’s going to play out. Obviously everyone’s excited for playoffs to come around. It’s the best time of year.”

“You want the playoffs to start as soon as possible because I think we’re playing really good hockey right now,” Reilly Smith said. “The biggest thing to focus on is not to get complacent, keep on pushing. Most of the teams we’re playing are desperate for playoff spots, so just to keep that mind-set and make sure you’re pushing every night and stick to the things that made us successful the last month or so.”

Changing on fly

With Carl Soderberg back in Boston for the birth of his first child, Julien was faced with a makeshift third line. So when things weren’t going well, he changed the line. Julien shifted Loui Eriksson back to the second line, the place he was supposed to be at the start of the season.

As Julien quipped, “Just another one of my quirky ideas.”

The coach was glad to get a chance to see how the line meshed in a game that wasn’t crucial for the Bruins, allowing Marchand, Bergeron, and Eriksson to have some time together in case the line is needed in the playoffs.

“They were good,” he said. “They were good together. At the same time we talk about two guys being good together, and that’s Bergy and March. I think Carl and Loui are a good pair as well, so we have to weigh those things in down the road. But this was a great opportunity tonight to put them there and give that line a different look.”

Iginla back in action

After sitting out Wednesday with a lower-body injury, Jarome Iginla returned against the Maple Leafs. “You’re always going to miss a guy like that,” Marchand said. “He’s got 30 goals and 60 points. It’s a guy that you’re going to miss every night. He’s such a big factor — even when he’s not scoring he’s throwing his weight around. He’s a physical presence.’’ Iginla was scoreless in 20 minutes and 29 seconds of ice time . . . Andrej Meszaros was the scratch on defense . . . Julien chose not to rest any of his regulars in Toronto. “We’ve talked about that,’’ he said. “We’ve been talking about that for a while, but we don’t feel that right now is that time. Still lots of games to be played. The rest that they would get right now I don’t think would be beneficial for them down the road. So we’re going to just push a little further here.”

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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