|Tyler Bozak defends against Brian Gionta of the Montreal Canadiens during an NHL game in November 2010 in Montreal. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images/AFP)
OTTAWA — Tyler Bozak limped to the Maple Leafs’ team bus Saturday night, his face clenched between a smile and a grimace.
In the early stages of the Leafs-Senators so-called “Battle of Onterrible,” the young centre took a hard shot off the inside of his knee and was forced to miss a couple of shifts.
But even with the pain knifing through his leg, Bozak came back with a vengeance, scoring twice before the arrival of the first intermission.
In finishing off a pair of nifty three-way passing plays with linemates Phil Kessel and Joey Crabb, Bozak was just one of the stars in the Leafs’ impressive 5-1 victory over the hapless Sens on Saturday night.
Wait a minute.
Isn’t Kessel supposed to be the goal-scorer?
Isn’t Crabb supposed to be a grinder?
Isn’t Bozak supposed to be the playmaker?
Obviously, this particular trio assumed some new roles in the new year.
“Those were a couple of great plays that ended up on my stick,” Bozak said afterward. “I can’t miss those.
“Things went very well for our line and for the entire team.”
During his stint with the Marlies a year ago, Bozak saw firsthand what goalie James Reimer and forward Darryl Boyce could do.
As a result, he was not at all surprised at the outcome on Saturday, a game in which Reimer collected NHL win No. 1 in his first start as a Leaf, Boyce scored his first NHL goal and Crabb notched a pair of assists.
“If they keep this up, they aren’t going anywhere,” Bozak said.
On this night, he showed the form, both in the faceoff circle and on the scoresheet, that made him such a coveted prospect coming out of college.
The Leafs only hope his banged-up knee will allow him to build on Saturday’s fine outing.