Randy Carlyle still has some work to do.
The new coach put his Toronto Maple Leafs through two lengthy practices after taking over for Ron Wilson, but the team met a familiar fate against the Boston Bruins — dropping a 5-4 decision on Tuesday night.
"You've got enough goals to win the hockey game," said Carlyle. "It's the defensive aspect of it that needs to be improved upon. … Tonight was just another indication of the amount work that's necessary on the defensive side of (the game) and the compete side of it and 1-on-1 battles side of it.
"Really if we demonstrated the will that was out there in the third period for 60 minutes that was what was required. That was my message."
Jordan Caron and Tyler Seguin each had two-goal performances as the Bruins beat Toronto for the fifth time this season. They've outscored their Northeast Division rival 28-10 in the process.
Carlyle had noted earlier in the day that Boston "embarrassed" the Leafs in the previous four meetings. On that front, he was able to claim a small amount of progress.
"We had lots of positives in the hockey game," said Carlyle. "Any time you score four goals you should feel good about your offensive side of it. But defence wins at this time of year."
Chris Kelly also had a goal for Boston (39-23-3), which halted a two-game losing slide. Tim Thomas stopped 25 shots and picked up the victory.
"We worked hard tonight," said Thomas.
It was a claim the Leafs could make as well — in the first and third periods, anyway. Carl Gunnarsson, John-Michael Liles, Phil Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski scored for Toronto (30-29-7).
Learning Carlyle's game
A major point of emphasis from Carlyle and new assistant Dave Farrish has been trying to get the Leafs to play a more conservative defensive game. However, there wasn't any sign of that in an entertaining, wide-open affair.
Jonas Gustavsson stood very little chance in the Toronto net as Boston score all but one of its goals from the edge of his crease. The other, Seguin's second of the night, came on a beautiful one-timer from the right circle.
"If you look where the goals were scored from, those weren't tough enough areas from a defending standpoint for our hockey club," said Carlyle. "I think that we hung the goaltender out to dry in too many situations."
The Leafs played more than half the game with a short bench after losing forwards Joffrey Lupul and Colby Armstrong early in the second period. Lupul suffered what the team called an upper body injury after taking a check from David Krejci while Armstrong was bloodied in a fight by Dennis Seidenberg.
Neither is expected to play when the Leafs visit Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
The second period offered a glimpse of the tougher brand of hockey the Leafs are expected to play under Carlyle with bodies flying everywhere and three fights.
"To me, that's the way the game's supposed to be played," said Carlyle. "It's supposed to be aggressive, it's supposed to be hard-hitting. If the fighting does occur, then so be it."
The middle frame also cost the Leafs the game.
Boston scored four goals — with one set coming 41 seconds apart and the other 35 seconds apart — as the Leafs slipped into some of their old habits.
"We've got to tighten it up defensively," said forward Tim Connolly. "I like the system in place (from Carlyle). Obviously, his record in the league shows that the system works, so we've just got to execute."
Toronto gamely tried to fight back after entering the third period down 5-3. Grabovski narrowed the deficit with a nice breakaway goal, one of 12 shots directed at Thomas in the final frame. But it was the only one that beat him.
As a result, the Leafs dropped their sixth straight game at Air Canada Centre. Just one more thing for Carlyle to focus on.
"We're working to get used to the style that he wants to play and the system," said Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf. "I think as a group we've grasped it pretty good in a very short time, the little subtle changes that we have made, and we're going to have to keep working at it."