Beantown beating

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

BOSTON -- The Maple Leafs officially waved goodbye to longtime captain Mats Sundin yesterday and then waved goodbye to a three-game win streak.

A combination of weak goaltending and defensive brain cramps on both sides, at least in the opening two periods, resulted in an old- fashioned shootout between the Leafs and the Boston Bruins, two clubs that are supposed to be responsible in their own end.

And when the dust settled, the Bruins skated away with a wild 8-5 victory. The Leafs also lost defenceman Mike Van Ryn, who returned to the lineup just three games ago after missing 13 with a concussion and other injuries, with another suspected concussion.

"He got his face hit into the glass, and he got a cut over the eye," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "What can you do?"

The big, bad Bruins treated the 17,565 fans at the TD Banknorth Garden to a 5-1 lead in the second. But the mood quickly soured when the Bruins, and more specifically goaltender Tim Thomas, fell apart, allowing the Leafs back in the game. With 20 minutes left, Boston led 6-5. The Leafs came out on fire to start to third.

But Boston goaltender Manny Fernandez, who replaced Thomas to start the final frame, made some key saves before the Bruins scored two power-play goals to end it. The loss dropped the Leafs to below .500 (12-13-6). Boston is 22-5-4.

"Fernandez actually made the difference because we dominated the (beginning) of the third period and he made three or four unbelievable saves and then they scored that power-play goal (with Mikhail Grabovski in the box for holding) and it was basically over at that point," Wilson said.

Wilson removed starter Vesa Toskala after the Finn let in two goals on five shots to start the game and replaced him with Curtis Joseph. The move appeared to snap the Leafs out of their funk as Pavel Kubina scored on a power play at 7:23 on a wrist shot that beat Thomas on the short side.

But Joseph was unable to keep the Bruins at bay, allowing Boston to take a 5-1 lead early in the second, and Wilson put Toskala back in to start the third. It appears that Wilson may be losing faith in Joseph, who hasn't exactly been solid as Toskala's backup this season.

"I'm not going to talk about the backup goaltending right now, OK?" Wilson said, when asked about the veteran goaltender.

The Leafs outshot Boston 36-27, but missed-chances and four penalties in the third buried any chance they had of coming back.

Nik Antropov, with his team-leading 12th, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Kubina all had a goal and assist for Toronto, while Jeff Finger had two assists. Grabovski and Jason Blake had the other goals.

"The character of this team is, we never quit, we're going to play hard to the final buzzer," Blake said.

"But we obviously just fell too far behind and couldn't come back."

The Boston line of Marc Savard, Phil Kessel and Milan Lucic has burned up the NHL this season and that was the case against the Leafs. The trio combined for eight points, with Kessel extending his scoring streak to 16 games. Savard had a goal and three assists while David Krejci posted his first career hat-trick for the Bruins. The crowd celebrated his third, at 15:44 of the third, by littering the ice with hats.

The Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead early the first on goals by Marco Sturm, who returned to the Boston lineup last night after missing 12 games with concussion-like symptoms, and Krejci, who scored with Kubina in the box for tripping. Both goal-scorers were left unmolested in front of Toskala.

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REPLAY

TURNING POINT

The Leafs arrived at the TD Banknorth Garden last night riding a three-game win streak, and coach Ron Wilson wasn't about to tinker with the lineup, meaning that defenceman Jonas Frogren, who now is healthy after missing 10 games with an arm injury, did not play. Rookie defenceman Jaime Sifers played his fourth straight game since being called up on Dec. 7.

Forward Niklas Hagman, who has missed four straight games with a concussion, is slated to return tomorrow against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena.

OUT AGAIN

Mike Van Ryan left last night's game with what looks to be his second concussion of the season.

SCOUT HONOURED

The Bruins had a moment of silence prior to last night's game for Nova Scotia-based scout Donnie Matheson, who passed away yesterday. Matheson had been in the Bruins organization for 15 seasons. He was 55.

HARD LUCK

Boston forward Marco Sturm returned to action last night after missing 12 games with concussion-like symptoms, scored in the first to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead, but then had to leave for the dressing room in the first after hurting his leg.

POINT-GETTERS

Toronto G A P

Pavel Kubina 1 1 2

Alexei Ponikarovsky 1 1 2

Nik Antropov 1 1 2

Jeff Finger 0 2 2

Mikhail Grabovski 1 0 1

Jason Blake 1 0 1

Nikolai Kulemin 0 1 1

Lee Stempniak 0 1 1

John Mitchell 0 1 1

Mike Van Ryn 0 1 1

Tomas Kaberle 0 1 1

NEXT UP

Tomorrow -- 7 p.m.; Maple Leafs at Pittsburgh Penguins; CBC, AM 640


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