Bruins bear up as Leafs hibernate

MIKE ZEISBERGER, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

There are morgues that have a more upbeat atmosphere than that which could be found in the Maple Leafs dressing room last night.

Pavel Kubina could barely speak thanks to the stitches that sealed the deep gash under his nose.

Bryan McCabe hobbled around with a swollen right foot, the after effect of being nailed by a shot.

Darcy Tucker wore a bitter scowl on his face, an understandable reaction after being asked if he was "disappointed" for the umpteenth time.

This was not the way the Leafs had hoped to welcome captain Mats Sundin back into the fold.

After lighting up the Washington Capitals for seven goals just 24 hours earlier, the Leafs were supposed to get a boost from the return of their captain after a seven-game absence with a slightly torn ligament in his right elbow.

But Paul Maurice's moribund team gave Sundin little support last night, dropping a 3-1 decision to the visiting Boston Bruins in front of a jeering capacity crowd.

Sundin certainly did his part, scoring his ninth goal of the season and logging 18 minutes 46 seconds of ice time.

But where were his teammates to help him?

Those Leafs who weren't battered and bruised in the trainers' room found themselves beaten up on the scoreboard by a Bruins team that wanted it more.

"We simply played too soft, but it had nothing to do with Mats," Tucker said. "Who wouldn't want a guy like that back in the mix?"

Tucker scoffed at suggestions -- and rightly so -- that Sundin's insertion into the lineup disrupted the chemistry of a team that went 4-2-1 without its captain.

"Don't even go there," he said. "That's (absurd)."

For his part, Sundin admitted to having some rust because of the layoff.

"It felt like I hadn't played in three weeks," said Sundin, who was injured Nov. 6.

"My arm actually felt great but the timing wasn't there.It is going to take a few games but it should get better. The big thing is getting back to the tempo out there."

STAMPED OUT

First-period goals by Petr Tenkrat and Marc Savard held up until 12:04 of the final frame when Sundin narrowed the gap to 2-1. But any hopes of a Toronto comeback were stamped out when former Leaf Brad Boyes delivered the knockout blow at 15:44.

Maurice, at wits end to find an offensive combination that consistently clicked, juggled his lines all night and benched Alex Steen -- he of the one goal this season -- in the third period.

McCabe shook off the pain and was able to return to the game after missing just one shift. Kubina was not as fortunate.

Playing just his ninth game of the season, the big defenceman took a deflected puck in the mouth in the second and lay on the trainers' table until late in the third. He was able to come back for one last shift and said he "should be okay" for the rematch with Boston Tuesday.

"One or two (teeth) were pushed back very far," he said. "They pushed them back into place. They did a good job. Hopefully they stay.

"It has been a rough start for me. Injuries are part of the game, but hopefully I'm done with them."

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REPORT CARD

C Forwards: Yes, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas was good.But the Leafs needed to be better at burying chances when they got them.

C Defence: The Bruins took advantage of the few miscues commited by the Toronto blue-line corps.

B Goaltending: Probably would like to have Boston's third goal back, a Brad Boyes shot that squeezed through his pads.


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