From The Star
BOSTON—Chasing hockey is losing hockey.
That’s been Leafs coach Mike Babcock’s mantra through a downturn in the Maple Leafs’ fortunes in January.
The team is struggling to score, struggling on special teams, and has had average goaltending of late. So it does itself no favours by surrendering early leads, especially when playing against teams with the ability to shut them down defensively.
Such was the case Saturday night in Boston when Patrice Bergeron — yes, him again — scored on the first shift of the first and second periods, putting the Leafs in a hole before many spectators at the sold-out TD Garden could take their seats.
The Leafs answered both times. Finally though, the Bruins did what they always seem to do: They beat the Leafs.
Brad Marchand jumped on a turnover from Jonathan Bernier, who had played the puck behind the net, and scored for the winning goal with just 47 seconds left in the third period. Not enough time to come back.
Leo Komarov and Shawn Matthias scored for the Maple Leafs.
For Matthias it was his fourth goal of the season, and first goal in eight games.
It was the first time in five games the Leafs scored more than one goal. But it wasn’t enough.
The difference was the Leafs’ power play, which went scoreless again. The Leafs have scored just twice on the power play over the past 10 games.
The two teams were in remarkably similar situations. Both were playing the second game of back-to-back games. Both had flown roughly the same distance to get here, Boston from Buffalo after a win over the Sabres, the Leafs from Toronto after a loss to Chicago.
The pre-game message from both teams had been about turning things around. The Leafs were on a downward funk, having lost four in a row before touching down in Boston.
“It’s been a tough week,” said Leafs defenceman Matt Hunwick.
The Bruins were on a 3-7-1 slide down the Atlantic Division standings, despite that win in Buffalo.
“There’s no . . . team in this league that we should look at and think it’s going to be an easy game,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “There are no such things. So consistency is a big part of this league now, as far as winning hockey games night in and night out. It’s about being able to bring it every night. So that’s what we’ve got to do here, simple as that.”
Outside of struggling special teams units, Babcock said he hadn’t noticed anything different about the way his team has been playing.
“I thought we’ve played really well,” the Leafs coach said. “But there are no moral victories in the league.”
The game had an “Oh no, not again” feel when Bergeron deked Jonathan for a 1-0 lead just 45 seconds into the game. It was Boston’s first shot on net.
Babcock had changed his goalie rotation, specifically to get Bernier in against the Bruins. James Reimer had lost his previous two meetings this season against Boston, so he drew the assignment against Chicago on Friday.
Komarov, who got his own rebound, tied the game at 4:31 of the first. The period was fairly even, and entertaining, from that point forward, with Boston holding an 18-13 shots advantage.
The second period was almost a mirror image of the first, with Boston scoring in the first minute. Zdeno Chara took the shot from the point through Marchand. Bergeron deflected it. It hit Bernier’s shoulder then hit the cross bar and bounced downward, across the red line just 39 seconds into the period. Again, it was the first shot of the period.
And again the Leafs caught up, albeit later in the period. Bozak knocked an off-balance Chara off the puck and fed a cross-ice pass right to Matthias’s tape. Matthias’s rocketed a wrist shot past Tuukka Rask at 17:16 as the second ended 2-2.
NOTES: Babcock sent Daniel Winnik to the press box for Saturday’s game, activating Rich Clune. That moved Josh Leivo to the third line with Peter Holland and Joffrey Lupul . . . The Leafs next game is Tuesday in Philadelphia . . . There were empty seats, no doubt fans preferring to watch the Patriots. But the Bruins announced a sellout for the 276th straight game.