Just 24 hours after returning home from Western Canada, the Toronto Maple Leafs
weren't very well-rested heading into Monday night's game with the Boston Bruins
at Air Canada Centre.
The Leafs were unable to recover from a sluggish start, as the Bruins scored twice in the first period and added another in the second en route to a 3-2 victory. Michael Ryder
's second-period goal ended up being the winner as the Bruins, who currently sit atop the Northeast Division at 11-3-4, handed the Maple Leafs a loss in their return from a week-long road trip.
"We've been playing a lot of hockey and I sense a little mental fatigue on our part," Boston coach Claude Julien
said. "We're in a stretch of 10 (games) in 18 (nights) so we're going to be in for a tough ride."
Boston took advantage of some early subpar goaltending by Vesa Toskala
, who allowed a soft shot by Phil Kessel
to go through his legs 9:40 into the game. Matt Hunwick
then converted on a juicy rebound at 13:18 for his first NHL goal to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
"Unfortunately, the first goal was obviously stoppable and beyond that, I can't complain about our compete level," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.
"Yeah, I should save that," the netminder said. "You have to fight through it a little bit. I found my game again a little bit after. It was a tough start for me and for the whole team. But I think we still kept fighting and got back in the game. That's kind of how my game went, too. I didn't feel that great at the start, but I felt good in the end."
injected some life into his comatose squad when he notched his third goal of the season with 2:09 remaining in the opening period. With his team in desperate need of a pick-me-up, Blake took a pretty feed off the end boards from Ian White
and ripped a shot over Thomas to make it 2-1.
Toronto had several chances to tie the game after that. The Maple Leafs were given three straight power plays -- including a two-man advantage for 21 seconds -- but couldn't get another shot past Thomas, who is well on his way to another appearance in the All-Star Game. Thomas finished with 28 saves.
"The puck just didn't go in and obviously Thomas made some -- well, he found pucks in scrambly areas I didn't think he could see," Wilson said.
Ryder made a nifty move to get around Leafs defenseman Pavel Kubina
before beating Toskala at 14:11 of the second period to make it 3-1. It brought back memories for at least one person in attendance.
"That's the type of goal that we've seen Michael Ryder
score many times," said Julien, who has coached him on four different teams.
Toronto wouldn't go down without a fight, though. Grabovski narrowed the lead to 3-2 at 8:53 of the third period, as Niklas Hagman
got around a defender and fed a wide-open Grabovski at the side of the goal for the latter's ninth tally of the season.
The Leafs had a glorious chance to notch the equalizer late in the third period, when Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward
took a late penalty for cross-checking. Toronto pulled Toskala, but Thomas and the Bruins withstood the late flurry.
It wasn't exactly the way Boston drew it up, but Thomas exhaled a sigh of relief after his team escaped with two more points in the standings. The Bruins will host the Buffalo Sabres
on Wednesday night.
"You're going to have to get (wins) all kinds of different ways," Thomas said. "Is that the way we would have drawn it up? No, but we're happy to get the two points and now we can go regroup."
Material from wire services and team web sites was used in this report.