B's ruin Mats' return

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

TORONTO -- Yes, Toronto, Mats was back, but where was everyone else?

The return of captain Mats Sundin last night after a seven-game absence was supposed to augment a Leafs team that had lit up the Washington Capitals for seven goals just 24 hours earlier.

But it seems the Leafs left their shooting eyes behind in the U.S. capital, much to the glee of the visiting Boston Bruins.

Buoyed by first-period goals from Petr Tenkrat and Marc Savard, the Bruins held on the rest of the way to post a 3-1 victory over the moribund hosts in front of a discouraged capacity crowd at the Air Canada Centre.

Sundin scored the only Leaf goal of the evening, finishing off a wild scramble in front of the Boston net with just 7:56 remaining in the third to bring the Leafs to within 2-1.

But any thoughts of a Toronto comeback were squelched when former Leaf Brad Boyes scored about three minutes later to seal the deal.

Bruins goalie Tim Thomas outdueled Andrew Raycroft, his teammate in Boston a year ago, to beat the Leafs for a second consecutive time.

Just nine days earlier, the Leafs could beat Thomas just once in a 2-1 overtime loss at the TD Banknorth Garden.

One of the few sparks for the Leafs came from pepperpot Darcy Tucker, who crushed 6-foot-9 behemoth Zdeno Chara into the boards in the Bruins' zone midway through the first period.

Boston defenceman Paul Mara responded by hunting down Tucker before dropping the gloves with the Leaf forward.

As if Chara needed the help.

Sundin suffered a slight ligament tear in his right elbow after being hit by the Philadelphia Flyers' Ben Eager during a game back on Nov. 6 at the Air Canada Centre, leaving his teammates with the unenviable task of picking up the offensive slack.

But who would it be?

Who would step forward in the captain's absence?

Those were the realistic fears expressed around the city as Sundin prepared for his stint on the sidelines.

In the end it took a collective effort from the entire team, which captured nine of a possible 14 points with Sundin out of the lineup.

Leading the way were assistant captains Tucker and Bryan McCabe, who took charge while No. 13 was healing.

In the seven games the Leafs played without Sundin, 12 different players combined to score 28 goals, an average of four per contest.


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