On Saturday night the Boston Bruins defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-1, at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in front of a raucous crowd of 19,473 rabid Maple Leafs supporters who expected their hometown team to have their way with the off-kilter Boston team.
Earlier in the day, the Boston hockey club, now 10-9-2 and fifth in the Northeast Division, had forgone their usual pre-game skating session and, instead, held a team meeting at their hotel.
The details of the meeting were not made public, but judging from Bruins Head Coach Dave Lewis' comments following Boston's 5-1 loss to the Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes on Friday afternoon in the Garden, scant minutes before the team hopped a plane for Canada -- well, let's just say that the B's certainly took notice.
"We had 19 players who were really off their game," said a calm, but obviously displeased, Lewis on Friday afternoon.
Lewis indicated that Boston goaltender Tim Thomas
, the twentieth player in his estimation, had been pulled, not because of his play, which had been stellar, but because the coach did not want to subject his number one netminder to any more of the Hurricanes relentless onslaught.
And out of the chute on Saturday, the Bruins showed none of the post-holiday "sleepiness" which characterized Friday's B's effort and made several clear statements early on. Petr Tenkrat scored his second of the year at 6:04 of the first and Marc Savard
added another at 14:06 with Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara
getting assists on both Boston markers.
Also in the first, in the signature moment of the game, Boston's Paul Mara took on Toronto's Darcy Tucker in some Original Six style fisticuffs.
Mara, who clearly took exception to Tucker's hit on Zdeno Chara
just a few seconds earlier, scored a decision on the Toronto forward after Tucker looked to lock horns with Boston's Marc Savard
Instead, Mara grabbed Tucker and the two men dropped the gloves.
"It was a great scrap by Paul Mara," said Lewis. "He really stood up for [Chara]. That was one of the things that was really important for our group."
Despite their superior play, however, Toronto out shot the Bruins, but Tim Thomas
stopped all 15 Maple Leafs attempts.
By all accounts, the second stanza was very entertaining as the Bruins poured 11 shots on former Bostonian Andrew Raycroft, but Razor kept the New Englanders at bay. And Thomas was also excellent during the session, but needed some help from Captain Chara who made a kick save when a puck trickled through the goalie during a Toronto scoring chance at 9:18.
"All I could do was dive in there and try to kick it," said Chara, the game's second star. "I got a little lucky."
The fists remained unclenched, but the hits just kept on coming from both teams and made for a really exciting third period.
And it was a controversial hit from Tucker on Marco Sturm that led to the Mats Sundin power play goal (assisted by Tucker) at 12:04 of the third period. But contrary to many of the team's efforts this season, the Bruins seemed unsatisfied with their one goal lead and quickly returned the favor.
Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron
, behind Raycroft's net in Gretzky's office, fed his linemate Brad Boyes in the slot and the second-year forward, former Toronto property, beat the Leafs goalie five-hole to put the Bruins up 3-1 and earning himself the number two star of the game.
Thomas closed the door on the Maple Leafs, finished with 27 saves and, beyond Mara's fists and the three goals, was one of the clear keys to the Bruins big victory over their division opponents.
"Toronto is…ahead of us in the standings," said Thomas, the game's number one star. "These are kind've like four point swings and it is important to get those points."
"It was a good game," said Dave Lewis after the game. "It was a complete game for us."
"I thought we supported each other well…the guys were committed to do the dirty things."
In the end, the Bruins kept it simple and that led to a win.
"We knew what we had to do tonight," said Savard. "We just went out and played hockey."
Following their second tilt with the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday, the Bruins return to the Garden to play some more hockey on Thursday, November 30th when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:00.
Tickets are available for all home games online by clicking here
, at the TD Banknorth Garden Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, or by phone at 617.624.BEAR.