Return hurts so good

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

BOSTON -- Andrew Raycroft knew he had a good thing going last night.

But shedding the ghosts of TDBanknorth Garden in his first appearance in the building, wearing a uniform other than that of the Boston Bruins, proved to be a bit too much.

The Maple Leafs goaltender was cruising along late in the second period when he suffered a mild left groin strain and watched on a television in the dressing room as his former club nearly erased his stellar performance. But the Leafs got an empty-net goal from Nik Antropov and beat the Bruins 6-4 for their sixth win in seven games.

"The script was going to be too good to be true," said Raycroft, who was hurt while making a save on Jeff Hoggan. "Of course, something had to happen. It would have been really nice to finish that.

"But (the injury) is nothing crazy. I am not worried and it is one of those things that will take some rest. I'll play it by ear and see how I feel in the morning."

Leafs coach Paul Maurice, already without the services of captain Mats Sundin who has an elbow injury, echoed Raycroft's take on the groin.

"If he came in (today) and said: 'I can play (tomorrow against the Montreal Canadiens),' that would not surprise me," Maurice said. "If we had to hold him out, that would not surprise me."

Raycroft had a difficult campaign with Boston in 2005-06 after he won the Calder Trophy in '03-04, the season before the lockout. He was jettisoned to the Leafs in June for blue-chip goaltending prospect Tuukka Rask and has rebounded well. Raycroft played long enough last night to win his ninth game, one more than he had last season.

The 26-year-old was excellent, stopping all 19 shots in the first period as his teammates built a 3-0 lead. Goals by Darcy Tucker, Michael Peca (his 400th NHL point) and Chad Kilger, meanwhile, led to a goaltending change for the Bruins to start the second.

Tim Thomas was given the ball to carry after Hannu Toivonen was sent to the minors earlier this week. But Thomas was bad last night and was yanked in favour of Brian Finley, who has not panned out after being taken sixth overall by Nashville in 1999.

Toronto went up 4-0 on Antropov's first of the game and was ahead 5-2 when Raycroft, who made 28 saves, got hurt. Jean-Sebastien Aubin faced just seven shots, but allowed two power-play goals in the third to P.J. Axelsson and Wayne Primeau.

JAW-DROPPING SAVE

Aubin did make a jaw-dropping save when he rolled over off his back and stopped a point-blank shot by Shean Donovan.

"I'm making it way too interesting right now," Aubin said of the Bruins' near-comeback. "I don't like it. It has to get better than that."

And he wasn't the only one bugged that the Leafs allowed the Bruins back into the game.

"But a win is a win, especially on the road," said Bryan McCabe, who will play in his 800th NHL game tomorrow night. "It could be ugly, but we will take it."

Alexei Ponikarovsky also scored for the Leafs, who improved to 6-2-1 away from the Air Canada Centre.

Antropov and Ponikarovsky were strong last night, flanking Kyle Wellwood, who moved over from the wing to replace Sundin on the line.

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REPORT CARD

B

Forwards: Without Mats Sundin, the forecheck-hard-now-and-ask-questions-later approach did not change and it worked again.

B -

Defence: The Leafs gave up too many shots and scoring opportunities to a club that has won just four times this season.

B

Goaltending: Before he went down, Andrew Raycroft again kept his team in the game. J-S Aubin made a highlight-reel save in the third to help preserve the win.


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