TORONTO - Not a lot changed in the standings for the Bruins last night, but they did leave the
With a half-dozen different scorers, and a pair of assists each from Milan Lucic and rookie call-up Matt Lashoff, the Bruins smacked a 6-2 loss on Toronto that all but eliminated the Maple Leafs from the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The win, only their third in 12 games (3-5-4), did not allow the Bruins to gain any substantive ground on their key competition for the last couple of postseason berths. They remained in eighth place, the final seed, tucked 2 points behind the Flyers and 3 back of the Rangers. The Capitals, 3-2 shootout winners over the Hurricanes, remained in ninth place and still trail the Bruins by only 2 points - although Washington has played one more game than the Bruins.
"It has been such a long time," said Boston coach Claude Julien, musing over the 3-0 lead his offensively challenged bunch built midway through the second period. "I can't remember the last time I had that luxury."
The half-dozen goals were the most scored by Boston since a 6-3 win over the Flyers Nov. 26. Faced with a fairly flat Leaf squad, the Bruins scored twice on the power play (Glen Murray and Marco Sturm) and four times at even strength (David Krejci, Shawn Thornton, Phil Kessel, and Jeremy Reich). Pretty impressive for a club that had managed to squeeze out only five goals across its previous three games, and but 16 over its previous 11.
The raw number of goals aside, the Bruins' biggest improvement, by far, was their presence and willingness around the net. Finally, after weeks of hearing Julien and his staff implore them to get in front of the net, hang near the posts, fight for territory, they showed the necessary gumption it takes to put the puck in the net, rather than just buzz around it like a bunch of pollen-collecting drones on a hot summer's day.
Murray opened the scoring by tipping in a Lashoff shot from above the left circle. Murray, blanked for 11 straight games, was where he had to be, standing in the shooting lane, where he provided the deflection that eluded Vesa Toskala. Krejci potted the 2-0 lead because he was right on the doorstep to gather in a Sturm rebound to pop it over Toskala. Sturm was parked directly off the right post, where he easily cashed a pretty cross-slot feed from Krejci.
All in all, simple positioning, and fairly easy goals. Not very complicated work, really, but it does . . . take . . . work.
"I said this morning that we needed a goal or two to go off shinpads," said Lucic, who set up the fourth goal with some impressive chugging up the left side. "Look at the first goal: It went off Muzz's skate and into the net. We had to go to the net and work hard, and it was great to see us get rewarded for doing it.
"Look at Muzz, Krejci, and later Kess . . . all of them were right there around the net."
Lucic, tired toward the end of his shift, showed great stamina in setting up Thornton's goal with 3:05 gone in the third. He picked the puck up in his own end, along the left boards, and burned right by a flat-footed Bryan McCabe. Barreling down the wing, with Ian White backing up, Lucic fired into the middle for a streaking Thornton to pop it by a surprised Toskala off the rush for the crushing 4-1 lead.
"That's why they call him 'Shawn the Trigger,' " beamed Lucic, pleased to set up a fellow member of the Hard Worker AC. "He did a great job, jumping up on that rush, and he made no mistake getting rid of it."
Now, with the sagging Leafs in Boston tomorrow night, we find out if the Bruins have put their scoring malaise behind them. They popped in six here, before a partisan crowd of 19,562 Blue and White believers, with their No. 1 center, Marc Savard, home with a back injury. They also lost one of their top scorers, right wing Chuck Kobasew, on only his second shift, after he took a Zdeno Chara slapper off the bottom of his left leg.
"The answer is, we'll see the next game," said Julien, asked if he felt his faltering forwards finally saw the virtues of hard work. "You hope they will build on it. Our job is to keep them getting there."
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.