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Maple Leafs finally beat Bruins

by Neil Acharya

TORONTO – There was a palpable sense of relief in the Toronto Maple Leafs' locker room, even though they were outshot, outchanced and outplayed by Boston.

That's because, for the first time since March 31, 2011, they weren't outscored by the Bruins.

The Maple Leafs were outshot 33-13, but made the most of their few chances by scoring once in each period to beat Boston 3-2 on Saturday night and end their eight-game losing streak to the Bruins.

The Bruins did almost everything right -- they controlled play for most of the evening -- but the Maple Leafs scored an early goal in each period and hung on in the final minutes after Boston cut a three-goal deficit to one.

"That is a bit of a monkey off our back, I guess you could say," Leafs defenseman Cody Franson said of ending the losing streak against their Northeast Division rival. "They have had our number."

Franson had reason to be relieved, Toronto had dropped its last eight meetings with Boston -- all in regulation -- since a 4-3 shootout victory in their last meeting of the 2010-11 season.

"I feel like we have given them much better games this year," Franson said of 4-2 and 1-0 losses earlier this season. "A couple of bounces in other games and we might have come out on top of those."

Red-hot Nazem Kadri, Mikhail Grabovski and Frazer McLaren scored for Toronto, with McLaren's goal 1:34 into the final period turning out to be the game-winner after defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference scored for Boston.

James Reimer turned in a superb 31-save effort for the Leafs. Anton Khudobin surrendered three goals on just 11 shots before being lifted after McLaren's goal made it 3-0.

"We were outshot but I don't think we were outchanced really," Reimer said "We battled hard and worked honest, we have been doing that for a while and not getting rewarded and not getting the bounces. It's a big win, we kind of keep plugging away, but it's nice to be rewarded for your hard work."

Kadri, coming off consecutive three-point games, opened the scoring 4:58 into the game by going top shelf to the short side on Khudobin. Clarke MacArthur threaded a pass from just inside the blue line through Brad Marchand and Seidenberg, catching Kadri in stride at the left circle. The goal was Kadri's 14th, tying him for the team lead with James van Riemsdyk.

Kadri now has a four-game point streak in which he has three goals and six assists and is now tied for eighth in League scoring with 34 points.

"I am not really too superstitious, but I am using the same stick that I have been using for the past three or four games, however many this streak has been lasting for," Kadri said. "I think I will keep that one close to me, it's fragile now, I don't know how much time its' got left," he added, jokingly.

John-Michael Liles earned the secondary assist by getting the puck up ice after a Boston turnover in the neutral zone. He left the game midway through the second period with a lower-body injury after getting his legs taken out from under him by Daniel Paille at the far boards in the Leafs zone. The injury forced coach Randy Carlyle to play with only five defenseman for the second half of the game.

Carlyle said x-rays came out negative for Liles meaning that nothing was broken or torn but there was a possibility of a sprain.

Grabovski took advantage of a broken play to make it 2-0 at 2:52 of the second period when he had two centering attempts blocked before firing a low shot that beat Khudobin to the far side for his eighth goal of the season.

The Bruins dominated the remainder of the period, outshooting the Leafs 9-5 for a 20-9 margin after two periods.

But when it came to fortunate bounces, McLaren got the biggest one of all after his backhander from the edge of the crease went into the net off the Khudobin's left pad 94 seconds into the final period for a 3-0 lead. The fluke goal prompted Bruins coach Claude Julien to pull his starting netminder and allow Tuukka Rask to finish the game.

"I don't even know how that goal went in," Khudobin said. "I tried to stay focused, [it was] an unlikely bounce I guess, [it went in] just against my pad, it went through. Sometimes it happens. I am going to learn from that and just keep moving forward."

Seidenberg scored 56 seconds after McLaren to end Reimer's shutout bid. Boston came in waves for throughout the rest of the period and got within one on Ference's sixth-attacker goal with 1:16 remaining. That set up a wild flurry in the final minute, but the Bruins couldn't get another puck past Reimer.

Reimer said the Leafs can't be satisfied just because they've ended the losing streak against Boston.

"It is maybe a little bit sweeter but last year is last year… there is a lot of things that have changed, we are a totally different team," Reimer said. "We got a couple of more games against them and one coming up in 48 hours, that's the biggest game of the year right now and it really doesn't matter if we broke the streak if they come out and win on Monday."

The teams complete the home-and-home series Monday night in Boston. Expect the Bruins to come out strong after their coach expressed his displeasure with his team's performance.

"There wasn't enough fight in our team tonight to deserve the win," Julien said. "We've got to continue to battle, once we find a way to play three periods like we [played] after we fell behind 3-0, we will be OK."

Prior to the game, the Maple Leafs welcomed back Mats Sundin, their career leader in goals and points. He dropped the puck for a ceremonial faceoff to honor his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2012. Fans gave him a rousing ovation that was preceded by a video tribute.

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