TORONTO -- Tim Thomas had the best of intentions.
In the second period, with his team down a goal to Toronto, the Maple Leafs poured on the pressure during one shift, practically melting the ice in the Boston zone with the heat generated by their whirring skates.
Zdeno Chara and Brad Stuart, the Boston defensemen, were getting pummeled in front of the net and along the boards.
Yan Stastny, Wayne Primeau, and Shean Donovan, the forwards attempting to slow up the Toronto attack, were feeling the fatigue of the extended shift, too.
So when a slow-moving, long-range shot came off the stick of fourth-line forward Kris Newbury, Thomas, instead of knocking it away with his stick, tried to cover the puck to get a whistle. But it dribbled away from the Bruins goalie and over the line at 12:24 of the second period, good for Newbury's first career goal, making it a 3-1 lead for Toronto.
The legless Bruins never recovered, dropping a 5-1 dud before 19,359 at the
"I hope we don't see that too often," said coach Dave Lewis. "We had no energy, no legs. No excuses. Toronto outworked us in all areas -- attacking zone, neutral zone, defensive zone. We couldn't get to the net. Their power play was effective. They got a couple fortunate goals, but they probably didn't have a big impact. We just looked like we were skating in sand."
All the factors seemed tilted in the Bruins' favor.
They had beaten the Leafs four straight times. The Leafs were missing Michael Peca, Nik Antropov, Alexei Ponikarovsky, and Kyle Wellwood, four of their regular forwards. Toronto was coming off a devastating 3-2 overtime loss to the Senators in which it blew a late lead.
But the Bruins, slogging through the last leg of the trip, never made the game into anything resembling competition. On a night when Thomas (30 saves) didn't have his best stuff, his teammates never came close to bailing him out.
"Look at what he's given us," said Andrew Alberts. "He made some big saves in the first five minutes. You can't fault Timmy for his effort. Ever."
Things started well for the Bruins. They grabbed a 1-0 lead when Chara, from his position in the slot (Marc Savard manned the defenseman's usual spot at the point), banged in the rebound of a Marco Sturm shot for a five-on-three power-play goal.
But the Bruins gave the Leafs their own extended power play when Savard was sent off for a high-sticking double minor. Captain Mats Sundin tied the score at 8:09. Just over four minutes later, ex-Bruin Hal Gill, with forward Chad Kilger setting a screen in front of Thomas, flipped the puck into the net at 12:19, giving the Leafs a 2-1 lead.
The play was reviewed to determine whether Kilger interfered with Thomas. But the goal was upheld, and after the game, Thomas acknowledged that Kilger probably didn't enter the crease to jostle the netminder.
The Bruins were still in the game, but Newbury's goal snuffed any life they might have had. That second-period shift, which included Chara trading front-of-the-net whacks with tough guy Wade Belak, seemed to go on forever.
"Mayhem," Stastny called the never-ending Toronto cycle. "We got caught in our zone and couldn't get the puck out a few times. When that happens, you usually get caught with a penalty or a goal.
"I think we had a chance or two to chip it out, but the puck was bouncing all night. We just never capitalized on the chances we had to get it out. After a while, you're just looking for any kind of whistle to calm guys down."
Had Thomas handled the puck cleanly, that whistle would have come.
"I was trying too hard to get the puck covered," Thomas said. "We were scrambling around in our zone. But I played it in a way that I normally don't play it. I normally shoot it to the corner. But my guys were so tired that I was just trying to get a handle on it.
"It handcuffed me. The puck was spinning. It could have very well spun wide instead of the other way."
Two minutes into the third period, Sundin extended the Toronto lead when his slapper went five-hole on Thomas, a shot the netminder said he usually stops. Later in the period, Toronto handed Boston another two-man advantage, but aside from a close-range shot by Sturm that Andrew Raycroft (27 saves) turned aside with a diving stop, the bumbling Bruins never got their formation set up.
"Everybody had an off night," said Lewis. "It was an off night for everybody in a Boston jersey except for Hannu [Toivonen]. And that's because he was on the bench."