Savard, Bruins blow away Leafs
Phil Kessel returned home last night, unaware that his West End reunion would turn into his personal imperfect storm, one that had the Bruins blow away the Maple Leafs, 7-2, and leave the former Bruins’ winger washed up on the side of Causeway Street with a line in the scoring summary nearly worthy of summoning the National Guard for emergency relief (no points, two shots on net, 16:28 in ice time, and a minus-3 rating).
Kessel, dealt to Toronto in September when he chose not to sign a contract extension after three years with the Bruins, was also the focal point of scorn throughout the evening by the packed Garden crowd of 17,565. From start to finish, No. 81 was booed every time he came near the puck, hectored when he landed his two shots, and chided with exaggerated chants of “Kes-sel . . . Kes-sel . . . Kes-sel.’’
When the night was over, the Bruins having matched the 7-2 pasting they handed the Hurricanes in game No. 2 of the season, Kessel had been outscored by Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, who pocketed an assist on Mark Recchi’s goal at the start of the third period that boosted the lead to 5-0.
Marc Savard (hat trick) led the deluge for the Bruins, who bounced back impressively from the humiliation of a 5-1 loss Friday night in Montreal. Marco Sturm, Zdeno Chara, rookie Johnny Boychuk (first career goal), and Recchi also scored for the Bruins, who moved back into first place in the Northeast Division and remained tucked among the leaders in the Eastern Conference.
“Claude’s pregame speech tonight was probably one of the best I have ever heard,’’ said Savard, noting coach Claude Julien’s efforts to shake his club from the doldrums of the loss in Montreal. “It really fired us up early . . . It was just a really inspirational one and I don’t know whose book it was out of, but it was pretty good.’’
The point of it all , said Julien, was that his team had to “redeem’’ itself after getting manhandled by the Habs on the final night of Montreal’s centennial celebration. “For us to lose, 5-1, it was an embarrassment for us . . . It was important for us to bounce back and have this kind of game, important for us to show our character.’’.
Left unsaid apparently was the importance to muzzle Kessel, who entered the evening with 10 goals and 15 points in his first 15 games in Blue and White. By early in the second period, following strikes by Sturm, Savard, and Chara, the Bruins boasted a 3-0 lead and all Kessel had to show was one shot on net and the minus-3 next to his name. He had been on the ice for all three strikes and was the last to touch the puck before Chara ripped in the third goal with only 2:09 gone in the second period.
Officially, the strike was unassisted, but it had Kessel’s fingerprints on it.
The show was essentially over by the 14:45 mark of the second when Savard potted his second, a power-play strike that had Michael Ryder swinging behind the net and dishing out a puck that Savard potted on Joey MacDonald’s stick side. Vesa Toskala took over the Leafs’ net for the third period, allowing the goals by Recchi, Boychuk, and Savard (No. 3) that had the lead up to 7-0 and the crowd still snarking at Kessel.
“He obviously didn’t have his best game,’’ said Leafs coach Ron Wilson, his club 5-1-1 upon arrival in Boston. “But we weren’t very good around him. We’re not a one-man show.’’
Rask (31 saves), lost his shutout bid when Niklas Hagman made it 7-1 with 4:14 left on the clock. Mikhail Grabovski popped in the 7-2 goal with 2:02 to go.
“I don’t think anyone in the room talked about it, to be honest,’’ said Boston winger Blake Wheeler, referring to the return of Kessel, one of his longtime pals. “Especially after what happened [in Montreal], we were more focused on getting the win. I think everyone expected [the booing] out of our crowd, normally it’s because the crowd figures you’re pretty good and it fires you up.’’
“Hey, guys get that all over the league,’’ said strongman Shawn Thornton, who impressively went toe to toe in a scrap with Toronto’s Colton Orr in the night’s featured bout. “I love our fans . . . Hey, give it to [Kessel] more, I could care less.’’
Five more of these Bruins-Leafs matchups to go, with the next one back at the Garden Thursday night.
“I’m sure,’’ mused Thornton, “that they’re going to come back with a lot more.’’