TORONTO -- Peter Robinson summed it up best.
With his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs heading in the direction of a downer 5-2 defeat to the Boston Bruins, the diehard Maple Leafs fan tweeted on his Twitter account (@PRGolfWriter), "I now know what it feels like when 20,000 people are told all at once there is no Santa Claus."
You may know Robinson. He's the forty-something author of a book released last fall entitled, Hope and Heartbreak in Toronto: Life as a Maple Leafs Fan. He's spent a small fortune on ducats to watch his team play at the Air Canada Centre and Maple Leaf Gardens over his lifetime. He is one of the most dedicated Toronto hockey fans out there.
Like most of the Maple Leafs faithful, he sat down to watch from his seat inside the ACC in anticipation this was going to be a special evening. It had to be, didn't it? After all, this was the first Stanley Cup playoff game at home in nine years and two days.
There was a buzz and buoyancy in the city when the Maple Leafs knotted up the first-round series after two games with an impressive 4-2 win in Boston last Saturday. He forked out $350 for a blue seat that had a face value of $190.
Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk talked about how neat it was when he walked around downtown enjoying the sunshine on Sunday, and how many well-wishers approached him to say "good luck" or "good game."
"This was the loudest I've heard this building," the first-year Maple Leafs forward said after the disappointing result on Monday.
"I thought the atmosphere was unbelievable tonight," Toronto centre Tyler Bozak added. "Hopefully, we can get them a win [in Game 4 on Wednesday]."
Earlier in the day, Maple Leafs unofficial team leader Joffrey Lupul remarked that it would only be a special night if they could pull out a victory. But the Bruins had no designs on pleasing the 19,746 in the ACC, with another estimated 4,000 combined inside the Maple Leafs' cash cow of a sports bar, Real Sports, and outside in Maple Leaf Square, respectively.
Bruins too good
The Bruins were too good on this night. What made the evening worse for Robinson and Co. was the 45-save effort of Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, a prospect the Maple Leafs swapped for Andrew Raycroft on June 24, 2006. Raycroft played this season in Italy for Milan.
Speaking of Milan, the Bruins line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton had quite a game. They combined for two goals and eight points. In this physical game that saw 99 hits dished out between the two clubs - 51 from Boston, 48 from the Maple Leafs, Lucic delivered the fiercest bodycheck on Lupul.
But it was more than Lucic, Krejci, Horton and Rask. The Maple didn't help their cause. Toronto defenceman Ryan O'Byrne was stripped of the puck by Boston's Jaromir Jagr, who swiftly found Rich Peverley for the 2-0 goal early in the second period.
Boston penalty killer Daniel Paille intercepted Phil Kessel's short pass attempt to teammate Dion Phaneuf for a short-handed breakaway goal late in the second period for a 4-1 Boston advantage.
Leafs deserved fate
Phaneuf hit a post. So did his power-play defence partner Cody Franson. But the Maple Leafs deserved their fate.
The Bruins, once again, dominated the face-off circle, winning 60 per cent of the draws. They were tops in this area in the regular season and have been tops through the first week of the playoffs.
Krejci beat Bozak for the Bruins first goal of the game from defenceman Adam McQuaid. Bozak later was tossed from two face-offs.
"If they were going to cheat, I wanted to cheat, too," said Bozak, who was told that he wasn't coming to a complete stop to take the draw.
Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle had a discussion with a linesman about what was the problem.
"It's supposed to be visitor [gets his stick] down, home down, puck down," Carlyle said. "[The linesman] felt we were impeding in the circle."
It certainly raised the ire of Maple Leafs fans. But not as much as the loss.
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