TORONTO - The next coach or player who finds a way to keep Milan Lucic under wraps in front of the net, please step forward.
The bruising Bruins forward scored a pair in Wednesday’s 6-3 win over the Leafs — one while left alone on a first-period power-play, the other by powering his way to a loose puck in front of goalie Jonas Gustavsson to put the game away in the third.
“He’s a big guy, that’s his area where he dominates,” Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn said. “He’s got a tonne of goals like that in his career, the goals you have to battle for.
“He’s probably the most powerful, strongest forward in the league and is tough to handle down low. It’s obviously a challenge and he won the battle tonight.”
We’re not about to write off an impressive November for the Leafs, even after another lopsided loss to the Bruins. An 0-3 record to their division rivals (and now leaders) looks ugly, but at least they competed Wednesday. “They seem to have our number, but I was pleased with the way we played,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said ... The Bruins managed 40 shots to the Leafs 37. The combined 77 were the most in any Toronto game this season ... He had just an assist to show for it — and a stopped breakaway by Tim Thomas — but it may have been Phil Kessel’s best game against his former team. Kessel managed three shots on net but was on for 24 shifts as Wilson double-shifted him to get away from big Boston defenceman Zdeno Chara. “I had some chances, they just don’t go in against these guys,” Kessel said ... Thomas on stopping Kessel: “I know he was thinking ‘Man, I really want to score.’” It didn’t help the Leafs forward couldn’t stop the puck from bouncing ... Just guessing, but with almost 72 hours until the rematch, the great debate will be who starts in net Saturday in Boston — James Reimer or Gustavsson. And another guess, the Monster will be back in for one more.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Wilson made centre Philippe Dupuis a healthy scratch and put Jay Rosehill in for some just-in-case muscle. When the Bruins bouncers stayed calm, Rosehill logged just four shifts and none in the third ... The other revealing roster choice by Wilson was Cody Franson as a healthy scratch in favour of Keith Aulie, who logged 14 minutes ... High on the list of plays that drive coaches crazy: Ruining a power play with not one, but two penalties. You could almost see Wilson’s Movember ’stache getting whiter by the minute when Joffrey Lupul took a boarding penalty and half a minute later Carl Gunnarsson added a holding minor. Just as the first was about to expire, Lucic tied it up with his first of the night ... Wilson bit his tongue, but clearly wasn’t pleased with the 5-2 edge the Leafs held in penalties ... As a wise Leafs tweeter (@Felixpotvin) pointed out, giving up fewer than 17 shots in the first 15 minutes might have helped the Leafs cause ... Big opening goal for Mikhail Grabovski on three fronts. 1) It was his first since Nov. 2 after missing five games to injury and being held scoreless in seven 2) A pretty saucer feed from Gunnarsson set it up. The steady Swede was back after missing just one game due to a finger injury 3) It was the eighth consecutive game the Leafs power-play connected ... With his goal, his 12th, Lupul took over as the NHL’s leading scorer for November with 19 points ... With Tampa’s Steven Stamkos scoring his 16th of the season, Kessel now has just a share of the league lead in that department ... And one more Kessel note: The 200-foot game we’ve heard so much about took a brief break at an unfortunate time when he failed to catch Chara on the backcheck for the Bruins’ third goal.
THIS AND THAT
It’s a little early for crazy trade rumours — or is it? No fewer than 14 scouts were listed on the press box seating guide Wednesday ... A big reason why the Bruins are so tough: they entered Wednesday’s game with the top three plus-minus players in the league (Tyler Seguin was tops at plus-19) and five of the top 10.