The Boston Bruins are smarter than the average bear when it comes to swiping the Maple Leafs' power-play picnic basket.
For the second time in four nights, Boston shut down Toronto's fifth-ranked prowess with the man advantage, riding Tim Thomas and tight checking to a 4-1 win. With a 3-1 decision Saturday at the same Air Canada Centre venue and a 2-1 overtime result in Boston Nov. 16, the Bs have held the Leafs to three goals, just two on the power play in 12 chances.
Toronto captain Mats Sundin, who has one of those goals, experienced the frustration first-hand last night. During a key third-period 5-on-3 for one minute 41 seconds, he lost a couple of draws where the Leafs retrieved the puck but couldn't beat Thomas with point shots or their favourite cross-crease feed.
"Instead of moving it quicker, we were looking for the perfect pass and sometimes you slow the power play down that way," Sundin said. "When our power play is going well, we don't really stop and look, we move the puck to the free guy and their box gets worn down."
Point man Bryan McCabe had seven of Toronto's 46 shots, but was denied by Thomas and rolled over on his left ankle in the third. After limping to the Leafs dressing room, he was diagnosed with a mild sprain and hopes to play tomorrow night in Atlanta.
"I just got caught in a rut," said McCabe, one of a few Leafs to gripe about the ACC ice conditions. "We'll see how it reacts tomorrow. It's nothing serious."
On the same play McCabe was hurt, Marco Sturm made it 3-1. Earlier, after Darcy Tucker hit the inside of the post during the 5-on-3, Glen Murray put the Bruins up 2-1.
Leafs coach Paul Maurice reorganized his lines again as the Leafs scoring woes mounted, but didn't find the desired chemistry on short notice.
"This is the NHL and that shouldn't matter," Tucker said. "You play hard with anybody and good things will happen."
The coach didn't lash out at his team after it atoned for a horrible start Saturday with a relentless shot barrage. But he did tell them to get used to teams such as Boston blanketing their offence.
"They play New Jersey Devils style hockey, they trap it and hold it," Sundin said.
"They didn't make fancy plays, they waited for our mistakes. But any time you get over 40 shots you know our effort was there."
Andrew Raycroft blocked 20 of 23 shots as two Bruins continued to find success with high glove-side chances.
Toronto's early success with wins in the Northeast Division, vital to its playoff hopes, has now shrunk to a record of 5-6-2 and 0-3-1 in the past four games. The Leafs lost back-to-back for the first time in a month.
Borat had to be the last Kazakh to get as much screen time as Nik Antropov did on a disputed second-period Leafs goal. But after several video replays, referee Kevin Pollock was forced to rescind his decision to disallow the goal as Antropov had not made a kicking motion on a Michael Peca rebound.
Antropov broke a six-game goal drought, while Boston's Shean Donovan hit for the first time in 27 games to open the scoring. Brad Boyes had an empty netter.
C - Forwards: Going for the extra move or pass was a pain and the power play laboured for the second consecutive game.
C - Defence: Unit had a few problems pinching, which led to Bruins chances.
C - Goaltending: Raycroft insisted there was no big deal about the Bruins shooting high on him, yet four goals in two games were upstairs.