TORONTO – On October 25th, the Bruins came into the Air Canada Centre and “embarrassed” the Toronto Maples Leafs in a 4-1 victory at a time where the Black and Gold were not playing very good hockey.
Almost a month later with Boston returning to the scene of the crime, the Bruins were the ones who were embarrassed.
Embarrassed might be an understatement.
Using the loss to the Bruins as motivation, the Maple Leafs have gone 6-1-1 since that October 25th defeat and have turned things around since the last time these two Atlantic Division foes met.
“Well we talked about it, that’s for sure,” said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle about their first meeting of the season with the Bruins. “We’ve tried to stimulate our memory a little bit about how embarrassed we were on the performance we put forth, it was an emotional game and we didn’t perform to the task.
After being asked about the defeat to the Bruins a month ago during the Leafs’ morning skate on Wednesday, forward Nazem Kadri talked about how the much the loss motivated he and his teammates.
“Yeah, I think we can. Some teams need a kick in the butt every once in a while and that was kind of our reality check and our wakeup call,” said Kadri.
After Phil Kessel opened the scoring 6:46 into the first, the Leafs started the second period with three goals in 1:34 to chase Tuukka Rask (12 saves on 16 shots) from the game.
“It wasn’t our best game tonight, obviously,” said Rask, who was pulled in a game by head coach Claude Julien for the second time in 2014-15. “You know we didn’t get the start that we wanted; they took it to us in the start, kept the puck for the most part. Then you know we kind of woke up after 10 minutes there in the first, played decent hockey after that, but then you get scored on, three quick goals in the early second period there and that deflates air out of your tires and game over after that.”
The Maple Leafs’ 3-0 second period lead over the Bruins was Toronto’s first lead of three or more since Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, a game the Bruins would end up winning.
Dominating the Bruins from start to finish, the Maple Leafs converted on three of their four power play opportunities. The loss was an uncharacteristic one for the B’s for sure. Rarely will you find the Black and Gold not being able to stop the bleeding, but on Wednesday the goals kept coming and coming for Toronto.
“Yeah, I think it’s definitely that we’ve been through adversity before and I think we have to realize that it is going to happen during the season and we need to find ways to come out on top,” said Patrice Bergeron.
Getting a chance to take on the Bruins without Zdeno Chara breathing down his neck every time he touches the puck, Kessel pulled off one of his best games against his former team. In the first leg of a back-to-back that will take them to Toronto and Montreal, the Bruins had no answer for the Maple Leafs or Kessel who scored his ninth and tenth goals of the season.
“You know what, credit Kess [Kessel] he’s a great shooter, a great goal scorer,” Rask said. “But when guys start you know taking direct shots and they go by me like that I would like to have those back obviously.”
The Bruins don’t have much time to dwell on this one, but that may be a good thing. With a tough test awaiting them in Montreal Thursday night, they’ll need to get back to basics and get back to what made them successful during their five-game winning streak.
“Well that’s what you want when you play a bad hockey game, you want to get right back at it,” said Chris Kelly who finished the night with 14:58 of ice time and a minus-1. “So it’s good that we play tomorrow night and we get an opportunity to go out and redeem ourselves.”
The Bruins didn’t win puck battles, their passes were not crisp, their defense had holes and they simply didn’t play like a team and it cost them early and often.
“It’s the only thing we did as a team,” Kelly added. “We all played poorly.”