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Kessel has little impact again

by Shawn P. Roarke /
BOSTON -- Everyone from Phil Kessel to his former Bruin teammates expected Kessel to have a better game in his second trip to Boston as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

All week, Kessel had said he would be better in Round 2 at the TD Garden. On Thursday morning, former teammates like Dennis Wideman and Blake Wheeler took turns warning that the Bruins would see a different Phil Kessel than the one that scuffled his way through Saturday's game -- a game that was televised across Canada as part of the Hockey Night in Canada doubleheader.

Much to the delight of a sellout crowd, every one of those expert prognosticators was wrong.

Kessel, traded from Boston to Toronto this offseason, had little impact in Toronto's 5-2 loss to the Bruins on Thursday night. Kessel, roundly booed and serenaded with a profane chant virtually every time he stepped on the ice, had no points and just two shots in 18:49 of ice time.

He did not speak to the media after the game.

Thursday's stat line is eerily similar to the one he put up in Saturday night's 7-2 loss here, his first trip back to Boston after the trade that sent him to Toronto and brought back two first-round picks and a second-round pick in the next two years.

Kessel called Saturday's game -- no points in 16:28 with just two shots and a minus-3 rating -- as his worst of the season. Unfortunately, Thursday night's game was only incrementally better.

On Saturday, he seemed to get worse as the game went along, clearly frustrated by the hostile reception from the fans that had cheered him for the first three years of his NHL career, including last year's 36-goal performance.

Kessel had a few strong shifts early in Thursday's game but quickly became frustrated again. However, he broke out of his lethargy midway through the third period to show his game-breaking offensive skills as he set up Matt Stajan for two glorious opportunities -- each of which was denied by Boston goalie Tuukka Rask.

But that mini-outburst proved to be the only time Kessel could put a stamp on this game.

Fortunately for Kessel, the Maple Leafs will not return to Boston until March 4.

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