A new look line up produced better results, as the Toronto Maple Leafs topped the Boston Bruins 4-3 Tuesday night.  The Leafs were led by the offensive dynamism of Tyler Bozak who scored 2 game-tying goals in the first period and added an assist on the eventual game winner.  Phil Kessel recorded 3 assists, and now has 7 points in his last three games.  It was Bozak’s 7th career 2-goal game… which is actually kind of an impressive stat for him.  Equally impressive was the goaltending of Jonathan Bernier, who made 38 saves in his 9th start in the past 10 games.

First Period

– Sloppy and rambunctious play highlighted the opening minutes of an incredibly busy first period.  The Leafs and Bruins traded scoring chances, notably with Bernier stoning Jarome Iginla on a breakaway.  After Bernier kicked out a fat rebound, Brad “and all the space in the world” Marchand scored to give the Bruins a 1 – 0 lead 3:38 in. The Leafs. Lupul lost his race to the puck on the half wall after Phaneuf rang the puck around, starting that play off.

– Two minutes later, the Leafs break even off another rebound.  After winning the offensive zone face off, Tyler Bozak snuck through to the crease and pounced on Carl Gunnarsson’s rebound to knot the game 1-1.  Gunnarsson and Kessel got the assists on the Bozak goal.

– With 9:12 left in the first, Patrice Bergeron tasks the puck behind Bernier’s left post – pivots – and backhands the puck between the wickets to reclaim the Bruins’ lead 2 – 1.  Brad Marchand picked up his second point of the period on the broken play.  But similarly to the game’s first goal, the Leafs inability to control rebounds and limit the Bruins’ second chances proved costly.

– Mere moments later, Carl Soderberg takes a bad penalty, to give the Leafs their first PP opportunity. Bozak deflects the Kessel pass over to van Riemsdyk, who turns and passes back to Bozak, who buries it into the wide open net to tie the game 2 – 2.  The two goals give Bozak 10 points in his last 8 games since returning from injury.  While much maligned for his offseason extension, he’s been great for the Leafs of late, and was instrumental to keeping the boys in the game early.  He also has a third chance in the last 30 seconds of the period, nearly recording a hat trick in 20 minutes.  The rest of the Leafs combined for 4 shots.

Second Period

– Heading into the second having scored two goals on seven shots, it would have been terrific for the Leafs to try to take the game to the Bruins.  So of course Bernier was brilliant mere seconds into the second frame, having to make a key toe save, and again before the first minute was out on a point blank chance in the paint.  As the sloppy play above would suggest, the Leafs took a penalty shortly thereafter, and the Bruins couldn’t convert on a glorious chance.

– Jake Gardiner earned a battlefield promotion to the top power play unit in the second period, and made good on it with 12:51 left in second period.  Nearing the end of an otherwise harmless-looking power play, Dion Phaneuf corralled the puck and fed the puck down to Kessel, who threaded a beautiful pass from the left wing half boards to Jake Gardiner at the top of the right circle.  Gardiner waited and then wristed one that eluded Rask to give the Leafs their first lead of the game.

–  One of the distressing things about the Leafs once they took the lead in the second was how much the game opened up thereafter.  There were odd-man chances both ways, and Carl Gunnarsson laid down for a huge pass block on a late 2 on 1.   As in the first, the Leafs were hemmed in their own zone and nearly gave up a goal in the last 10 seconds of the period.

Third Period

– Tyler Bozak, trying to earn 4.2 million dollars in one night, records his 3rd point of the night feeding James van Riemsdyk, who makes it 4 – 2 Maple Leafs.  Bozak passed off to van Riemsdyk who was streaking down the right wing in the bruins zone.  The Dutchman stopped at the top of the circle and threaded a shot to the top of the net… with a deflection from a helpful Bruins’ stick.  The goal was van Riemsdyk’s 18th of the season, matching last year’s totals.  Joffrey Lupul found the score sheet, getting a secondary assist on the tally.

– Kind of odd moment.  In a quick sequence on the Leafs fourth power play, Dion Phaneuf wired a shot into Patrice Bergeron’s jaw.  He got off the ice, got looked at by a trainer, and then was ready to continue his endless quest to eliminate every woman named Sarah Connors penalty.  Seriously, do you need Wolfsbane or Hellfire to stop that guy?

– Moments after, Carl Gunnarsson heard Milan Lucic’s footsteps and flipped the puck over the glass in the Leafs zone.  In a play so unintentional and marginal that even the Bruins play-by-play guys thought it was undeserved, Gunnarsson of course receives the delay of game penalty.

– After the penalty expired, Gardiner made an ill-advised reverse pass behind the net instead of turning the puck up ice. Dan Paille drew Gunnarsson down to him and passed off to Greg Campbell, who backhanded one up and over Bernier’s glove to cut the Leafs lead to 4-3 with 10:25 to go.  We’ve seen this episode before, haven’t we?

– Smelling blood in the water, the Bruins leapt to the attack and started exerting its will over the Maple Leafs, even when shorthanded.  The rest of the period was a tense game of inches that would have left Carlyle bald if nature hadn’t already taken care of that for him.  But history didn’t repeat itself, and the Leafs got a much needed 4 – 3 victory. Two huge shot blocks by Tim Gleason in the waning moments.

– Minutes for the centermen with the new lines: 23:56 for Bozak, 13:00 for Kadri, 11:51 for McClement, 10:26 for Holland. Better.

The Special Teams Revue

– The power play was dominant tonight.  Bozak’s second and Gardiner’s were both scored with the man advantage, that seemed to be finding wide open cross-ice seams in the Bruins shorthanded unit.  The Leafs had a third power play chance in the second period, and while unsuccessful, the Bruins were lucky to have killed it off.  The unit looked much more confident, and chased down pucks with a rarely-seen tenacity.

– On the PK side, the club was both good and lucky.  Good in that Bernier made the saves he needed to (including this ten beller), McClement and Raymond intercepted passes and just got them out of the zone.  Lucky in that the Leafs benefited from a beleaguered Bruins power play that had gone 0-15 in their last six games.  The Bruins didn’t score on an open cage on the first PK, and couldn’t capitalize on a couple good chances on the second.

Parting shots

Tonight’s game was good medicine for Leafs fan, despite the cardiac finish.  The collapse of May 2013; and the years of incompetence prior, has made the Leafs and Bruins matchups quite the tragicomic story.

But thankfully narratives only permeate the sport and are not deterministic.  In lower stakes, the Leafs walked out of Boston with a win after coming back from behind and seeing a multiple goal lead evaporate.  More importantly, it was one critically important win against a conference elite in regulation.  I mentioned a few days ago the basic math ahead of the Leafs in the chase for a playoff spot:

Well, now it’s 39 points in 34 games.  That’s still daunting.  One thing remains clear: the Leafs can play with the Bruins any given night.  There seems to be a great little rivalry getting renewed in Beantown.  A demain, Leafs fans.