TORONTO — Brad Marchand put up 100 points last season for the first time in his career. The Li’l Ball o’ Hate looks like he’ll reach the century club again this season, but this time perhaps right around the February trade deadline.
The LBo’H is hot.
Marchand scored twice in a span of less than five minutes early in the third period, both times to snap a tie, and paced the Bruins to a 4-2 win over the Leafs on Friday night at Scotiabank Arena.
The two goals, increasing his point total this season to 13-19—32, pushed Marchand into sole possession of the team’s scoring lead, one point ahead of linemate David Pastrnak, and put him on pace for 138 point this season, now less than a quarter of the way into the 82-game season.
“I’m not really thinking about it, to be honest,” said Marchand. “When you start getting caught up in stats, it starts to go downhill. I think the biggest thing with our group is we try to go game to game, focus more on the process and play consistently well every night. We have a good team, so we expect to and produce all across the board.”
The victory, backed by Tuukka Rask (8-2-2/29 saves) in the Boston net, ended the Bruins season-worst winless streak at 0-2-2. They’re back in action Saturday night at the Garden against the Capitals (losers to Montreal).
Marchand snapped a 1-1 deadlock only 11 seconds into the third, carrying the puck to the net off the opening faceoff and then potting a rebound after Leafs tender Frederik Andersen made the initial doorstep save.
The Leafs rallied back for a second time on the night when a series of defensive miscues by the Bruins left Kasperi Kapanen unattended in front, parked at the lower edge of the left wing circle, to knock home his sixth of the season. John Tavares laced a pass through the slot toward the left post, after Boston backliners Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy botched coverage.
Marchand put Boston back up at 5:08 on another deposit of his own rebound. Collecting Charlie Coyle’s feed from the left side, Marchand snaked through the middle and again was turned back at short range by Andersen. But the tenacious left winger picked up his spare change and made the quick lift through Andersen for the game-winner.
“I think it’s a game we get up for,” said Marchand. “A lot of history between these two teams, especially the last few years. It adds to the games. We know when we come in here we have to skate, have to compete — those guys can all fly, and they are all talented.”
It was the fourth time this season that Marchand finished with a pair of goals. He now trails Pastrnak, who has scored only once over the last four games, by only three goals for the team lead.
Zdeno Charo connected for an empty-net goal with 1:33 remaining in regulation to ice the 4-2 win.
The Leafs, who will be on the road for 11 of their next 13 games, erased Boston’s 1-0 lead with 9:20 gone in the second on an Auston Matthews tip from the slot. Jake Muzzin one-timed a knuckling shot from above the left-wing circle and Matthews, fronted by Matt Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo, knocked it home with a waist-high tip that sent the puck through Rask’s five hole.
Coyle snapped home his first goal this month with 6:12 left in the first, the 14th time this season the Bruins opened the scoring. Coyle snapped home a 10-footer from the low inner edge of the right-wing circle after Grzelcyk circled behind and centered out from the goal line, at the right of the net.
Coyle, moved up to David Krejci’s right wing because of Boston’s recent rash of injuries, had not scored since Oct. 29. Coach Bruce Cassidy has wanted the ex-BU forward to develop a more shoot-first approach. No doubt he thought shoot first on the smooth feed by Grzelcyk.
“We know his best fit is as a third-line center,” said Cassidy. “But we don’t know how his fit is as [Krejci’s] right wing. We didn’t see a lot of it last year. We haven’t seen a lot of it this year. But he’s done well up there. He’s going to give us something to think about if he‘s going to to continue to play like that. A good problem to have.”
Rask placed himself No. 1 on the blame list Tuesday when the Panthers tuned him up for four goals in the third period, erasing a 4-0 Boston lead and ultimately leading to a shootout loss. He was sharp here, beaten on the tip by Matthews and then victimized by bad D zone coverage on the Kapanen strike.
“From our perspective, unlucky,” said Cassidy, focusing on the Matthews tip for the 1-1 tie. “From there’s, it’s a good hand-eye coordination play. The other goal, we broke down and they made a play — I don’t fault him on either goal. Rebound control was good and I thought he kept the front of his net clean, for the most part.”
Pastrnak picked up another minor penalty (interference) in the first, leaving him with 16 PIMs through 19 games, less than one-quarter of the way through the season. It’s well ahead of Pasta’s typical pace. In the last three years, he’s averaged 34 PIMs.
With Torey Krug sidelined at least through Saturday’s visit by the Caps, Cassidy has made Grzelcyk the lone point man on Boston’s No. 1 PP unit. The No. 2 unit goes with the more conventional approach of two point men, jobs filled by Charlie McAvoy and Urho Vaakanainen. The Bruins finished 0-for-2 on the PP and have gone 1 for 6 over the last three games.