January 1, 2007
TORONTO (CP) - Kris Newbury and his four-year-old son, Jacob, will always remember New Year's Day 2007.
The 24-year-old native of nearby Brampton scored his first NHL goal to help the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 5-1, and Jacob was in Air Canada Centre to see his dad do it.
"He loves to come and watch,'' said Newbury, whose aunt brought the boy to what was Newbury's fifth big-league game.
Newbury toiled in the minors for three seasons before getting his call-up just before Christmas when one Leaf after another was injured. He was summoned from the AHL's Toronto Marlies.
|(Graig Abel Photography) |
"You've always got to stay positive,'' he said. "I was playing pretty well down there and was being rewarded with lots of ice time.
"The time came (for the call-up) and I was happy to take the opportunity. It was one of the best Christmas presents I've ever received.''
He skated on the fourth line with Wade Belak and Ben Ondrus, and it was their in-the-trenches aggressiveness that sealed the win when Newbury scored at 12:24 of the second period. Toronto was clinging to a 2-1 lead when the three buzzed around the Bruins net crashing into anything that moved.
Belak repeatedly jousted with six-foot-nine Zdeno Chara. Newbury took a wild shot out of a corner that surprised Tim Thomas. The puck went in off the goalie's stick blade, and little Jacob jumped out of his seat while Newbury rushed to Belak's aid in a confrontation with Chara.
"I was so pumped up I scored that I didn't realize who it was until I actually got to him,'' said Newbury. "I tried to give him a two-handed punch and he didn't really budge so that'll probably be the last time I do that to him, but I'll go to a teammate's side any time.''
The team's trainers saved the puck he shot past Thomas.
"I'm sure it's going to be plaqued somehow and be on the wall at the house,'' said Newbury.
Mats Sundin continued his torrid scoring pace with his 17th and 18th goals. The big Swede has six goals in his last five games. He also assisted on a goal by Jeff O'Neill. Hal Gill also scored for the Leafs, and Andrew Raycroft was outstanding in the nets.
The win enabled the Leafs, 18-17-6, to grab a share of seventh place in the Eastern Conference with the idle New York Rangers, and to vault out of the Northeast Division basement past the Bruins.
It was an uplifting way for the injury-riddled Leafs complete the first half of their schedule. They had earned only three of 12 available points in their previous six games.
Chara scored for the weary Bruins, 19-15-3, who were playing their third road game in four nights. Relegation to the division cellar might be only temporary since they have four games in hand on Toronto.
Toronto had a 35-28 shots edge and was 2-for-6 on power plays while Boston was 1-for-4.
The Leafs produced their best effort in weeks.
"It doesn't take a genius to realize the situation we're in right now,'' said Sundin. "I think we know as a group that we have to be better defensive team that we've been the first half of the season.
"We've given up a lot of goals. At the start of the season, we thought our problem was going to be scoring but we've scored a lot of goals. What we need as a team is to play better defensively and keep the puck out of our net.
"It's not just up to our goalies and our defencemen, as a group all the forwards have to help out. I thought this was a step in the right direction. That was the biggest positive thing (Monday night) _ we played better defensively.''
The teams exchanged early power-play goals. Chara parked his 260 pounds at the front of the crease and put in a rebound at 4:51 with Boston on a two-man advantage.
Sundin redirected in a Bryan McCabe pass at 8:09 for his 513th goal, moving him past Gilbert Perreault for sole possession of 32nd spot on the all-time list.
Darcy Tucker, who had missed two games after taking a puck off his left foot, was ridden into corner boards when tripped by Paul Mara in the 11th minute. It was an infraction to most of the 19,359 spectators, but the referees missed it.
"It was good to get into the game early, I guess,'' Tucker reasoned afterwards.
Gill put Toronto up 2-1 at 12:19. The fluttering puck's arc put it in a top corner of the net as Thomas was falling in his crease with Chad Kilger setting a screen.
Tucker was elbowed to the ice by Andrew Alberts in the 19th minute in the same corner where Mara took him down. Alberts was penalized when Tucker got up with blood flowing down his face.
"First game back, I just wanted to go out there and try to bring some energy,'' said Tucker. "It was good to be back out there with the guys.
"This was a very important game for us and to win it was nice.''
The fourth line then supplied the decisive goal.
"That's what our line has to do to be successful _ go in there and bang bodies around, work pucks down low and bring them to the net when you can,'' said Newbury. "When we did that, we got rewarded with a little more ice time in the third so it was nice.''
Thomas wished he could replay the Newbury shot.
"Everything just sort of spiralled downhill,'' he said. "A couple of bad breaks . . . I don't know what happened.''
Sundin took two strides over the Boston blue-line and slapped a low rocket past Thomas two minutes into the third period.
"It was a pretty darn good shot, but it's one that I save nearly every time,'' said Thomas, who didn't cut quite the right angle.
Sundin then set up O'Neill with a cross-crease pass for redirection into the open side of the net for a power-play goal at 5:13.
"To sit on the bench and watch a player of his calibre _ it's amazing what he can do with the puck,'' Newbury said of Sundin. "He's the total package. He's great to watch.'
Boston coach Dave Lewis didn't like much of anything he saw.
"We had no energy, no legs,'' said Lewis. "Toronto outplayed us in all areas.
"We just looked like we were skating in sand. I think everybody had an off-night _ everyone who was wearing the Bruins jersey. It doesn't matter who your opponent is, you've got to play hard to win.''
The Bruins allowed 18 goals during their 1-2-1 road trip.
"It's a disappointing finish, especially if you consider who we played and the importance of these points,'' said Lewis. "It's part of being in this league _ to win, you have to fight
through the fatigue, the emotion.''
Notes: Toronto's next game is Thursday in Boston and it plays at home Saturday against Buffalo . . . Boston leads the season series with Toronto 3-2-1 . . . C Mike Peca (broken leg, Dec. 22), C Kyle Wellwood (hip flexor, Dec. 21), RW Alexei Ponikarovsky (shoulder, Dec. 21) and C Nik Antropov (sprained ankle, Dec. 6) remained out. RW Aleksander Suglobov and D Brendan Bell were healthy scratches . . . The Leafs were 4-7-2 in earning only 10 of a possible 26 points in December . . . Another 11 goals and Sundin will have 390 in a Leafs uniform, which would make him the all-time leading goal scorer in club history. Darryl Sittler scored 389 . . . Boston rookie Phil Kessel, who has missed 10 games since beginning treatment for testicular cancer, has been cleared to resume skating. Also out of Boston's lineup was RW Jeff Hoggan (shoulder).