TORONTO (AP) — The Toronto Maple Leafs feel like they can keep up with the NHL-leading Boston Bruins. They just need to do it for three consecutive periods.
Pavel Zacha scored twice in the third as Boston surged past the Maple Leafs 5-2 on Wednesday. After a scoreless first period, Toronto trailed 2-1 at the second intermission before the Bruins blew the game open.
"I thought we were with them nearly the whole way," said Leafs forward Mitchell Marner, who had a power-play goal in the second. "Just in the third, I don't know if I'd call it cheating but we were pushing hard and gave up a couple of odd-man chances and it cost us."
Derek Forbort and Brandon Carlo both had goals in the second period as Boston snapped a three-game winless skid. A.J. Greer also scored in the final period and Linus Ullmark made 33 saves.
Of the four Bruins scorers, only Zacha has double digits in goals this season, with his two on Wednesday lifting him to 11. Carlo said it's important for Boston to count on its depth players for offense, too.
"We all want to contribute in that aspect when we can," said Carlo, who has two goals on the season. "It's great when you do get the result from it. I think it gives the rest of the guys a boost as well.
"We want to be a great support system to the guys who are scoring all the time and occasionally do our part, too."
Marner scored on the power play, his 19th goal of the season, for Toronto. Calle Jarnkrok had a goal in the third to keep the Maple Leafs in the game. Ilya Samsonov stopped 24 shots in his eighth consecutive game in net for Toronto.
Forbort snapped home a short-handed goal 6:57 into the second.
Marner replied on the power play 2:28 later. After a long leading pass off the boards from Samsonov, Marner skated through the left faceoff circle and snapped a shot past Ullmark to tie it at 1.
Carlo reestablished Boston's one-goal lead a little over three minutes later, taking a pass from Hampus Lindholm and deflecting it past Samsonov from a wide angle.
Zacha's second goal of the night came at 12:19 of the third. Standing just a few feet from Samsonov's crease, he dropped to a knee to one-time a pass from David Krejci into the net.
"I think that line is very dynamic," said Bruins coach Jim Montgomery. "It's one of the most creative lines in the league.
"(Zacha's) a little bit of a glue guy that has to do a lot of the dirty work, so to speak, drive the middle lane, be the first guy on the forecheck, first guy in the back check."
John Tavares celebrated his 1,000th game in the NHL on Sunday with two assists in Toronto's 5-1 win over the Washington Capitals. Timothy Liljegren decided to have a little fun at his captain's expense after the game, awarding the team's MVP belt to Mark Giordano instead of Tavares. Giordano said on Wednesday he had intended to give a long speech to really rub salt in Tavares' wound but when he looked around the room he knew he had to give the belt to its proper recipient.
"The joke got a few guys and they were already pretty upset that we didn't give it to John so I had to turn it over pretty quick," laughed Giordano.
Bruins: After All-Star break, host the Washington Capitals on Saturday, Feb. 11.
Maple Leafs: After All-Star break, at Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, Feb. 10.
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