Unbearable loss for Buds

Boston Bruins defenceman Paul Mara congratulates goalie Tim Thomas on his 3-0 shutout win against...

Boston Bruins defenceman Paul Mara congratulates goalie Tim Thomas on his 3-0 shutout win against the Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday. (Sun Media/Stan Behal)

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

Warning to the Maple Leafs: Don't feed the bears at this time of year.

Not with so many starving animals roaming around the Eastern Conference playoff picnic table. You can certainly count the Boston Bruins back in the hunt, after last night's 3-0 win over mistake-prone Toronto, which was 0-for-6 on the power play.

The B's scattered the home camp with a mighty roar -- 44 saves by Tim Thomas, three goals on 13 shots to chase Andrew Raycroft to the bench, and a second win in as many nights to close to within four points of the Leafs, who were bumped out of eighth place last night by Montreal.

"Everyone is still in it and they'll be in it until the end," predicted Raycroft of the four points that now separate six teams. "Every night won't be pretty."

It certainly wasn't last evening, with Nik Antropov hitting the post on a 5-on-3 power play in the first period and the Leafs' fortunes going downhill from there. Not about to let his team rest on its laurels after just one other regulation loss this month, Mats Sundin sounded his own alarm.

"It has been a bit of a pattern in the last few days. We've looked too relaxed," the captain said. "We didn't have the killer instinct tonight. Absolutely, this was a missed opportunity."

The Leafs now head out for a three-game road swing, though likely a little less sure if this roster will still be intact the next time they convene at the Air Canada Centre. The NHL trade deadline will pass at 3 p.m., next Tuesday, just before they play host to the Buffalo Sabres.

With general manager John Ferguson wrapping up league meetings in Florida, where trade talk will be heightened, coach Paul Maurice did not think last night's result should make any Leaf insecure.

"Nobody in that locker room or in the medical room has had to read his name in the paper the last month and half," Maurice said of the team's recent success. "(The deadline) doesn't affect our room. We've had some pretty good killer instincts over the course of this year. Tonight, we hit some posts and their guy made some saves. Out-shooting (Boston) 36-13 through two periods and be losing 3-0 ... that's not going to get it done."

Thomas said he wanted to "redeem" himself after the Leafs shellacked him during a 10-2 win Jan. 4 in Boston and did so with 13 saves on Jeff O'Neill and Alex Steen alone.

"They got one (rebound goal) off the post on me and that's all they needed to play their checking game," said Raycroft, who had not seen the bench since Dec. 29 and was playing in his 21st consecutive game.

But in a move to wake up the Leafs and get Jean-Sebastien Aubin some playing time, Raycroft was rested.

"He just told me to take a seat and have a couple of hot dogs, nothing too serious," Raycroft said.

After Stanislav Chistov's opening goal, originating with a Carlo Colaiacovo giveaway behind his net, P.J. Axelsson scored on short-handed on a partial breakaway, and Jason York wrapped it up after Brian Bochenski bumped Pavel Kubina off the puck.

The Leafs fell back below .500 at home (12-13-5), but now will try and build on their 17 victories on the road.

REPORT CARD

D Forwards: Not even Mats Sundin could escape criticism for some of the decisions on six wasted power-plays, as Boston scored short-handed.

D + Defence: A second's hesitation cost the Leafs defencemen dearly on a few plays. Giveaways in their own end produced two Boston goals.

D Goaltending: Three goals allowed on just 13 shots by the Bruins and it was a short night for Andrew Raycroft.


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