Bruins bust up Leafs again

Maple Leafs forward David Steckel looks for the puck in front of Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas at...

Maple Leafs forward David Steckel looks for the puck in front of Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., Nov. 30, 2011. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:58 PM ET

TORONTO - Batman had the Joker.

Superman had kryptonite.

And when it comes to playoff hockey, the Ottawa Senators had the Maple Leafs. (Sorry Ottawa).

In every walk of life, everyone seems to have at least one nemesis.

In the case of the 2011-12 Maple Leafs, it easily is the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

To date, the upstart Leafs have enjoyed one of their best starts to a season in recent memory,

Against the rest of the National Hockey League, the Leafs are 14-6-2.

Against the Bruins, they are 0-3, outscored by a margin of 19-5.

But at least this time, unlike the 7-0 and 6-2 beatings absorbed by the Leafs at the hands of the Big Bad Bruins in their two previous meetings, Toronto has something to build on moving forward.

They had better, given the fact that the two teams clash again on Saturday at the raucous TD Garden in Boston.

“They have a good team,” coach Ron Wilson said after the Bruins 6-3 victory. “They seem to have our number. But overall I’m happy the way we played.

“If we keep playing like that, we’re going to beat these guys,” he added.

If they do, it will be a rare sight indeed.

In their past 29 encounters, the Bruins are 19-5-5 versus their Original Six rivals from Toronto. When you are dominated by a division rival to that extent, it certainly puts a dent in your efforts to make the post-season.

To be fair, there was no lack of effort by the Leafs in this one. On a night where there was a rare electricity in the normally moribund Air Canada Centre, the Leafs used their speed to hem the Bruins in at times.

In the end, the Leafs battled hard in what was an entertaining wide-open affair that featured end-to-end action and some bad blood too.

The Bruins, for example, were not happy with the hit inflicted on Johnny Boychuk on an icing call late in the second period, which caused a brief scrum behind the Boston net.

All in all, it sets the stage for what stands to be a very emotional second leg of this home-and-home series at the TD Garden in Boston on Saturday night.

“I thought we deserved a better fate,” said captain Dion Phaneuf, adding that the absence of five regulars from the Leafs lineup was “no excuse.

“We haven’t used that as an excuse all season and we’re not going to start now,” Phaneuf said.

The victory completed a spectacular turnaround of fortunes by the Bruins in the past four weeks.

On Oct. 30, the Bruins were in last place in the Northeast Division. Today, after a 12-0-1 run, the Bruins are in first.

In the process, the Bruins became just the third team in NHL history to not suffer a regulation-time loss in the month of November.

Normally held in check against his former team, ex-Bruin Phil Kessel actually looked dynamic at times, setting up Joffrey Lupul for a beautiful goal in the second period. He also had a clear-cut breakaway in the first, but was thwarted by defending Vezina and Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas.

Even with that assist, Kessel now has just seven points in 15 career games against the Bruins. And you can bet that, come Saturday night, with selected members of the pro-Bruin capacity crowd having enjoyed a few wobbly pops in the many watering holes surrounding the arena, Mr. Kessel will be serenaded with chats of “Thank you Kess-el” by the fans.

Milan Lucic led the way for Boston by scoring twice, with David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, Benoit Pouliot and Brad Marchand adding goals for the winners. Lupul, Mikhail Grabovski and Joey Crabb replied for Toronto.

Asked about his team’s dominance over the Leafs, Bruins coach Claude Julien summed it up this way.

“Our success as come because we have never lost respect for that team,” he said. “They are up-and-comers.”

Ones who are thirsting for a rare win against Julien’s team.


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