Leafs benched in Beantown

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

BOSTON -- With the intangible of shock value no longer on their side, the Maple Leafs were undressed last night at the TD Banknorth Garden.

And the naked truth of what this team can be on its off-games was, at times, hard on the eyes.

As their opponents get wise to what the young Leafs are about and the growing pains they will endure, you get the sense there are going to be more nights like this one, a thorough 5-2 defeat at the hands of an inspired bunch of Bruins.

This time, a team with a healthy early lead wasn't going to ease up on the throttle as the Leafs dropped their third in a row and were taught that, without hard work, they are sorely lacking in enough talent to get by.

"We've got to figure this out," Leafs forward Dominic Moore said of yet another sluggish start by his team, the sixth time in the past nine games that Toronto was burrowed into a 2-0 hole. "We're not a good enough team to be giving teams a lead like that."

Already weary from a frantic run in which they were playing their fourth game in six nights, the Leafs had to play with a shortened bench for much of the game when forwards Nik Antropov and John Mitchell went down with injuries. Antropov dinged his left foot blocking a shot by Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference in the opening period. X-rays proved negative, but his immediate status is uncertain.

The prognosis wasn't so bright for Mitchell, who was nailed by Aaron Ward in the second period and suffered a suspected separated shoulder. The rookie also will be evaluated by team doctors today.

As much as the Leafs pride themselves on working hard and have become quite an entertaining team to watch with their repeated comebacks, it was more than just the manpower shortage that did them in last night.

And the more times they spot a competent opponent a lead, the more likely the odds are going to catch up to them.

"We're not good enough to just say we're automatically going to score the first two goals every night," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "We didn't do a good enough job and again we took a couple of unnecessary penalties."

Indeed, much of the Bruins damage was done early as they opened up a 2-0 lead just 7:46 into the contest on power-play goals by defenceman Dennis Wideman and forward Blake Wheeler's first of a hat trick night.

Wheeler's second made it 3-0 early in the second and the Leafs only had a flicker of a comeback hope after Alex Steen finished off his own rebound two minutes into the third. Such thoughts were quickly snuffed out, however, when the Leafs couldn't connect on a lengthy two-man advantage.

"We didn't move our legs as much as they did," Steen said. "They outworked us. We've got to get out of the gate better. This is getting old ... it's tough battling back every game."

For much of the night, the Leafs were beaten at what had been their own game so far this season -- namely, outworking the opposition. Goaltender Vesa Toskala wasn't his sharpest, but he couldn't be blamed for a regular procession of Bruins forwards left alone in front of him as Leafs defenders continue to have difficulty clearing bodies.

Towering defenceman Zdeno Chara scored the other Bruins goal while Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski rounded out the scoring.

With the book now out on the Leafs, they no longer can expect opponents to take them lightly -- especially hard-working ones such as the Bruins, who now have won five of their past six.

"They were better than us all over the ice, winning all the battles," Toskala said. "We just have to find a way to be ready when the game starts."

---

REPLAY

TURNING POINT

Two weeks ago, the Bruins lost to the Leafs 4-2 after leading 2-0 after the first period. This time, the hosts jumped on the Leafs early and kept coming, outshooting and outhustling the Leafs for much of the game.

BY THE NUMBERS

In giving up two power-play goals, the Leafs allowed two or more while shorthanded for the fifth time this season ... The Leafs outshot the B's, 36-35, the 10th consecutive time they have had the edge in shots on their opponent.

BLOCK PARTY

With 217 blocked shots in 13 games prior to last night, the Leafs lead the league in that category -- 10 up on their nearest rival, Pittsburgh. On Tuesday, against Carolina, the Leafs blocked more shots (25) than they allowed on net (24).

HOT HAND

It game in a losing cause late in the third period, but when centre Mikhail Grabovski beat Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, it was his fifth goal in the past three games.

LUCKY NUMBER

Bruins' rookie forward Blake Wheeler, who earned his first career hat trick last night, switched sweater numbers -- from 42 to 26 -- prior to the match.


Videos

Photos