A little turmoil seems to bring out the best in the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With talk of potential trades and front-office shakeups reaching full volume for the second time this season, the Leafs won their second straight game Thursday, beating the Bruins 3-2 in a shootout in Boston.
Alex Steen, who was out with the flu Tuesday when the Leafs snapped a skid of five straight losses by beating Carolina 5-4, returned to play the hero Thursday, scoring in regulation play before beating Bruins goalie Alex Auld with a deke to the backhand for the shootout winner.
The victory snapped a six-game road losing streak for Toronto (18-21-8), and gave the Leafs consecutive victories for the first time since Dec. 10 and 14.
The last time rumours of an overhaul swirled around the Leafs — toward the end of November and into December — the team responded with a four-game winning streak.
Matt Stajan joined Steen in scoring in regulation Thursday, while Mats Sundin — the subject of recent trade speculation — came through with a shootout goal. Tomas Kaberle chipped in a pair of assists.
Vesa Toskala stopped 29 shots before denying Phil Kessel and Marc Savard in the shootout to pick up his first win in the tiebreaker in eight career tries.
"It seemed like I was 0-10 in shootouts … 0-7 doesn't seem that bad now, but it's nice to get the two points," Toskala said.
Zdeno Chara and Marco Sturm beat Toskala in regulation, while Auld made 31 saves for the Bruins (22-18-5).
"I won't point the finger at our team for this disappointing loss," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We had seven regulars out, and with a little bit of luck we could have had a different outcome."
Both teams return to action Saturday. Boston hosts the New York Rangers in a matinee affair, while Toronto hosts the slumping Buffalo Sabres later that evening (CBC, 6:30 p.m. ET).
Close calls in final minutes
Steen got the Leafs off to a good start by potting his eighth of the season exactly four minutes into the game. It was his first goal since scoring a pair against the Islanders on Boxing Day, and just his fourth since the start of December.
The Bruins responded with a pair of quick markers later in the period.
Chara scored his seventh of the season at 14:27 — just after a penalty to Sundin expired — followed by Sturm's 14th just 90 seconds later. Both goals were set up by Savard and Dennis Wideman.
Toronto appeared to be headed to the dressing room for the second intermission facing a one-goal deficit before Stajan found himself in the right place at the right time.
With the Leafs working the puck around the perimeter, Pavel Kubina's point shot got knocked down in front of the net and bounced right to Stajan, who fired it past Auld with 8.8 seconds left in the period to tie the game at 2-2.
The goal was the 11th of the season for Stajan, and his second in as many contests following a 10-game drought.
Toronto got a good chance to go ahead late in regulation as Boston's Andrew Ference was whistled for a double minor for high-sticking Darcy Tucker with 1:55 remaining. But Kubina cancelled that 30 seconds later by skating back to submarine Jeremy Reich as he entered the Toronto zone on a 2-on-1 rush with Glen Metropolit.
The Leafs had their power-play restored when Kubina's penalty ended, but couldn't capitalize on the opportunity despite some close calls in the crease area.