TORONTO -- If there ever was a night the Toronto Maple Leafs had a prime opportunity to break the magical spell the Boston Bruins have had over them for the past two seasons, it was at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday evening.
Soon to be inducted Hockey Hall of Famer Mats Sundin was back in the building, even though he fumbled the puck before he dropped it for ceremonial face-off.
The Bruins were finishing a grueling four-game road trip that took them from Pittsburgh to Winnipeg to Ottawa to Toronto in seven nights. They had a handful of regulars on the sidelines with injuries, including reliable defencemen Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuk. Milan Lucic was mired in 14-game goal-less drought. They even had backup goalie Anton Khudobin in net.
The Maple Leafs needed to snap this eight-game losing streak versus the Bruins, once and for all, especially with the final regular-season meeting on the horizon in Boston on Monday.
So the Maple Leafs did prevail. It certainly wasn't a masterpiece. But Toronto finally beat the Bruins. For one night anyway, the Maple Leafs could forget the Phil Kessel trade. They could forget about what was lost in the two first-round picks,Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton.
Trade still haunts Leafs
For that matter, they could forget about Jared Knight, too. He's a 21-year-old rookie forward in the AHL, the player the Bruins took with the 2010 second-round pick in the Kessel trade.
This deal hasn't been easy on the Maple Leafs faithful. Seguin and Hamilton will be solid players for years to come, and the Bruins already have won a Stanley Cup since the Sept. 19, 2009 trade. They also have a remarkable 14-4-3 hold on the Maple Leafs since Kessel deal. Here's Boston's season-by-season breakdown versus the Leafs since the trade.
In the Maple Leafs 3-2 win on Saturday, they received excellent goaltending from James Reimer. They received an early-game goal from rising star Nazem Kadri, who now has nine points in his last four games, thanks to a turnover in the neutral zone from Boston defenceman Matt Bartkowski, who was playing in only his 10th NHL game and first this season.
Toronto's Mikhail Grabovski and Frazer McLaren scored timely goals and the Maple Leafs built a 3-0 lead early in the third period.
The Maple Leafs were at their shot-blocking best with a whopping 31 blocks. The defence pairing of Mark Fraser and Cody Franson was particularly good with five blocks apiece. For the most part, they went up against the Bruins top line of David Krejci, Lucic and Seguin, and they held Lucic goal-less for a 15th straight game.
Still, the Maple Leafs had to hang on for dear life in the third period. The Bruins simply dominated the Maple Leafs. They outshot Toronto 33-13 and held the puck for long stretches in the Maple Leafs zone. But, in the end, the comeback fell short.
The hard forechecking Bruins simply were too fancy on this night. They tried to make the extra pass all game and suffered for their poor decisions.
If the Maple Leafs play the same way in Beantown on Monday, they likely won't return home with two points. But at least, for one night anyway, they finally broke the spell the Bruins have over them.
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