The Bruins are getting a reputation.
The Maple Leafs knew they would have to keep their intensity up until the end. The Bruins are the best third-period team in the league, and they proved it once again on Thursday, though they fell to Toronto in overtime, 4-3.
As Nazem Kadri, who tallied the game winner, said after the game, “That was a good Boston team that is relentless, and we knew coming in that we weren’t safe with a one- or two-goal lead, that we had to keep fighting till the end, and that’s exactly what happened.”
The Bruins scored twice in the third period – goals by Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron – to tie the score at 3-3. That brought their third-period total to 99 goals for the season, a whopping 14 more than the next-closest team, the Flyers (85).
“We talked about that during the intermission there, that we had to keep pushing and we found a way,” said Bergeron, who has nine goals in his last nine games, now just two shy of 30. “We got those two goals that we needed.
“You don’t win games if you don’t play for 60 in this league.”
Especially if you don’t play for that final 20.
“It showed some character to be able to come back against a desperate team like Toronto,” Lucic said. “These are the type of situations you can find yourselves in in the playoffs.”
Those are the times, too, when scoring in the third period — and keeping opponents off the scoreboard — are crucial. The Bruins also have allowed the fewest goals in the NHL in the third period, at 52, with the Blues next at 53.
Part of that is coach Claude Julien’s ability to use four lines, unlike many teams. Against the Coyotes in Phoenix March 22, for example, the Bruins’ fourth line took multiple good shifts at the end of the game, with Shawn Thornton eventually scoring the winner. That was crucial as the team steamrolled through March, going 15-1-1, a month in which the Bruins played 17 games in 31 days.
“I think you look at our minutes and, yeah, we’ve played a lot of games, but no one’s minutes are outrageous like you see throughout the league,” Chris Kelly said last week. “You see some forwards playing 25 minutes. You’ll never see that here, which I think is nice — maybe the good players don’t. But I think that that helps, especially when you’re playing so many hockey games.”
That has helped the team’s pace from start to finish, especially in the third, when the Bruins appear to be fresher than many of their opponents.
After a sloppy first two periods Thursday, the Bruins got back to their game in the third. As Julien said, “We looked a little bit more like our team. That was the goal going into the third period: ‘Let’s go play our game here.’ ”
And for the Bruins, that third-period game is the best in the league.
Gregory Campbell was nominated for the 2014 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy by the Boston chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. The award is given to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” Campbell started this season coming off a broken leg, which he suffered in the Eastern Conference final against the Penguins last season. He remained on the ice for 47 seconds during a Penguins power play after he broke his leg. Campbell has seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 75 games this season. The Masterton Trophy winner is selected at the end of the regular season . . . With his goal and assist Thursday night, Bergeron now has a 10-game point streak (nine goals, five assists), which matches his career high . . . The Bruins returned Ryan Spooner to Providence Friday. Spooner was called up on an emergency basis Tuesday. He did not appear in a game in his brief time with the Bruins.Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.