The Maple Leafs were pressing for a tying score during the second period Monday night and it seemed only a matter of time before they would get it.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Ryder raced into the Toronto end, dragged the puck around a defender and scored with a high wrist shot. Boston hung on for a 3-2 victory.
It was the sort of skill Ryder was known for during his best seasons in Montreal. But it was only the third time he’s scored since joining Boston last offseason, so his new teammates were especially pleased to see the puck go in.
“We all know that he can score goals,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “He needs to just find that zone where he’s going to really be playing with a lot of confidence. It’s good that he scored tonight.
“Anytime that you see a guy that’s supposed to score goals score one, it’s good for the team.”
Phil Kessel and Matt Hunwick also scored for Boston. Marc Savard and Milan Lucic each added two assists for the Northeast Division leaders, who handed Toronto a loss in its return from a weeklong road trip.
Ryder seems to have adjusted comfortably to life in Boston since signing a $12 million, three-year contract on July 1. Yet after four seasons with the Canadiens, he admits he’s still getting used to a new system and different teammates.
Ultimately, he expects things to work out.
“I think it’s a good fit,” Ryder said.
At least one thing should be familiar—his team is hovering near the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins are off to an 11-3-4 start and they’ve lost only one game all season by more than a goal. They weren’t overly impressive Monday night, but coach Claude Julien will gladly take the two points.
“We’ve been playing a lot of hockey and I sense a little mental fatigue on our part,” he said. “We’re in a stretch of 10 (games) in 18 (nights) so we’re going to be in for a tough ride.”
The Leafs returned home from a swing through Western Canada about 24 hours before the game and it showed during a sluggish start.
They didn’t get much help from goalie Vesa Toskala, either. He was particularly shaky during the first period, letting a soft shot from Kessel go through his legs at 9:40 and giving up a big rebound to Hunwick before he scored his first NHL goal at 13:18.
Suddenly, Boston had a 2-0 lead and the game appeared headed for a blowout.
“Unfortunately, the first goal was obviously stoppable and beyond that, I can’t complain about our compete level,” Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.
Toronto had several chances to tie it during the second period. The Maple Leafs were given three straight power plays—including 21 seconds with a 5-on-3 advantage—but couldn’t get another shot past Thomas, who made saves while flopping all over his crease.
“The puck just didn’t go in and obviously Thomas made some—well, he found pucks in scrambly areas I didn’t think he could see,” Wilson said.
A nice individual rush by Ryder restored Boston’s two-goal lead. The former Montreal Canadiens sniper dragged the puck around Leafs defenseman Pavel Kubina and beat Toskala high at 14:11 to make it 3-1.
“That’s the type of goal that we’ve seen Michael Ryder score many times,” said Julien, who has coached him on four teams.
Toronto found its legs in the third period after Grabovski scored his ninth goal of the season at 8:53 to make it 3-2. Niklas Hagman made a nice move to beat a defender and the puck found its way to a wide-open Grabovski at the side of the net.
Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward took a late penalty and the Maple Leafs pulled Toskala, but Thomas stood tall during a late flurry.
“You’re going to have to get (wins) all kinds of different ways,” Thomas said. “Is that the way we would have drawn it up? No. But we’re happy to get the two points and now we can go regroup.”
Attendance was 19,410. … Toronto’s 4-2 win over Boston on Oct. 23 is the only game the Bruins have lost by more than one goal this season. … It’s been 15 games since Toronto was outshot by an opponent. … White has points in seven of the eight games he’s dressed in for the Maple Leafs. … Jonas Frogren was a healthy scratch for Toronto. Andrew Ference (leg) and Petteri Nokelainen sat out for the Bruins. … Julien coached his 100th game for Boston.