Leaf storm buries Bruins

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

BOSTON -- The locals call it a Nor'easter, a sudden savage storm that blows in off the Atlantic through New England at this time of year.

But last night's came roaring in from the direction of the Maple Leafs bench and flattened Boston in double-digit fashion.

With Alex Steen's first career hat trick building to a five-point night, and pace-setting efforts from the rank and file line of NHL desperados John Pohl, Bates Battaglia and Boyd Devereaux, Toronto smashed the B's 10-2 improve their playoff forecast in the Northeast Division.

It was the most goals the Leafs have scored on the road in nine years, featuring five in the second period, three in 42 seconds, which is three ticks off the club record from 1940 against the New York Americans.

"It was like playing Sega '96 (video) hockey, again," said fourth-liner Wade Belak, who somehow went scoreless for a 107th straight game, while Monday's hero, Mats Sundin, only had a point.

Battaglia and Matt Stajan had two-goal games, with singles to Pohl, Kris Newbury and Chad Kilger. Pohl's line had eight points, with defenceman Ian White a plus-six with two assists.

But coach Paul Maurice resisted doing cartwheels in the hallway at TD BankNorth Garden, correctly pointing out that early saves from Andrew Raycroft and spadework by Pohl set the table. Leafs forwards had only four shots in the first period -- three by Pohl -- while Raycroft made a huge stop on Stanislav Chistov before the Leafs reeled off nine consecutive goals.

"We had injuries and the guys we've brought in knew they had to be better defensively to get back on the ice and they've done it," Maurice said.

In fact, the surge brought the Leafs to a 141-140 mark in goals for and against.

"That's something we've tried to improve upon the last 10 games, being better defensively," Maurice said. "That's a trend that has to continue."

Battaglia and Devereaux are one-time NHL regulars who have been toiling in the minors, while centreman Pohl was stuck in the St. Louis Blues system until general manager John Ferguson rescued him.

"Our line's motto is: 'Keep it simple, stupid'," Pohl said. "We're not superstars, but we all skate well, we all understand the game and we're three very similar players. My job is to get them the puck and good things will happen."

Bruins coach Dave Lewis eventually took his top defenceman, Zdeno Chara, and checking forward Wayne Primeau off Sundin's line and put them on Pohl's.

"I have something to prove," Battaglia said. "But we all have to take advantage of the ice time. What makes our line go is doing the little things, chipping it in, getting it out."

Devereaux, with two assists last night, now has at least a point in all four games as a Leaf. The best start to a Leafs career post-1980 is Dan Daoust's nine-game point run back in 1982-83.

Before Boston's starting goalie Tim Thomas was replaced by Philippe Sauve, he had surrendered eight goals on 31 shots.

Battaglia and Stajan, meanwhile, just missed joining Dave Keon and Bob Pulford as the only Leafs ever to get hat tricks in the same game, back on Dec. 18, 1965.

Toronto now owns a three-point advantage on Boston in the division and conference standing, though bear hunting season has now ended and Buffalo season begins tomorrow night.

BOSTON MASSACRE

Some other highlights from last night's 10-2 romp:

TEAM

- Most Leafs goals in a game and on the road since Nov. 12, 1998 (10-3 at Chicago).

- Most goals (10) in Boston since 1995.

- Ties most Leafs goals in one period this year (five).

- Fastest three goals this year. Battaglia, Steen, Newbury scored 42 seconds apart.

MILESTONES

- Mats Sundin passes Vince Damphousse for 40th in career NHL points with 1,206.

- Sundin ties Dave Keon for third in Leaf assists with 493.

- Tomas Kaberle ties Jim McKenny for fourth in points by Leafs defencemen with 327.


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