Discipline trumps determination

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins were determined to stop their three-game losing streak and start to turn their season around.

The Maple Leafs, a team rounding into form and playing its best hockey of the young season, had other ideas.

The Leafs withstood a determined early onslaught from the Bruins, then broke open a tie game in the third period to come away with a 4-1 victory.

The Bruins were coming off four days of intensive workouts. They hadn't played since a loss on Saturday and, in the interim, had been roasted, grilled and otherwise put under the broiler by their coach, Mike Sullivan.

They had not had a particularly pleasant week and in order to avoid any repeat performances of Sullivan's variations -- such as two-a-day practices -- the Bruins wanted to come out and take apart the Leafs.

They tried. They outshot Toronto 15-5 in the first period, but Mikael Tellqvist was brilliant, stopping everything that came his way. Just as importantly, he consistently smothered the rebounds and, with the way the Bruins were driving for the net, that was crucial.

The territorial advantage was considerable, but whenever the B's had a chance to open the scoring, they either shot wide or were thwarted by Tellqvist.

After that, the tide of the game turned inexorably in favour of the Leafs.

Much of it had to do with discipline. In recent days, this has become a smarter Toronto team, far more intelligent than the one that repeatedly staged parades to the penalty box and lost games as a result.

In their previous game, they took only four penalties against the New York Rangers, one of which was a bench minor, and squeezed out a 2-1 victory.

Last night, they were again more disciplined, again taking only four penalties, two of them coming after the game was out of reach. And again, the opposition was held to one goal.

"They go together," coach Pat Quinn said. "They really do. Our guys have been working very hard at it. We do have a mobile team -- enough that we don't need to rely on that sticking and hooking and grabbing.

"So, it was getting rid of habit and our guys are approaching a better form of play. It does show in our goals against, no question."

One of the earlier regular culprits -- though certainly not the only one -- had been defenceman McCabe. But again last night, he played a solid two-way game. He did get one penalty, but it was for clearing the puck over the glass, not one of the needless stick infractions.

The reduction in penalty-box time, he said, is crucial to the team's success.

"That's something we absolutely try to focus on because it has been killing us," McCabe said. "It was killing momentum early in games.

"In Montreal on Saturday night, we took four or five minors in the first period. Guys are sitting on the bench. No flow. So, in the past couple of games, we've done a great job of getting guys in, and at least getting a couple of rotations before there is a penalty.

"Staying out of the box is the key big time. We talk about it all the time because we know we're one of the worst in the league at it. So we're making a conscious effort to stay out of the box."

On the other side, there was no such discipline.

"You can't allow their power play a chance to win the game for them," Sullivan said. "We did in the third."

The other Bruins complaint was that, once again, they finished poorly and lost a game which had appeared to be under control.

But the Leafs had a lot to do with that. They weathered the storm and took command -- just what a good team wants to do on the road.


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