This was one of those games where we got through two periods then got ugly. Preceded by three days of drama from both sides – Kessel claiming not to be bothered by the boo’s, even though his coach said otherwise – Shawn Thornton publically admitting on the Toucher and Rich show that he didn’t like Kessel, and enjoyed the garden jobbing him – buildup, buildup, these games are all about buildup.
Claude Julien, in an awesome effort to mess with our minds, puts Matt Hunwick in at forward. Bitz is out of the lineup. Rumors about taking care of his 5 cats abound. Whatever the case, we want Bitz back soon. 7PM EST. Game on.
First 8 minutes were all about feeling each other out, about the Finnish goalie throwdown (Toskala was something like a wall last night against the Islanders), about both teams ringing the post repeatedly, about fanning on shots and tons of dirty work around the net in front. Sobotka almost scores. Krejci almost scores. Kessel can’t get near the net. Just like on Saturday, the Gardengoers boo Kessel every time he touches the puck, razzing him as soon as his ass gets over the dasher. Kesselmania pt. II has begun, and it starts with a 4-minute double minor.
At exactly 8:01, magic happens – a Mark Stuart slapper from the blue line trickles right through Toskala. Clearly it’s his mojo from buying all those tickets for the Iraq vets, we’re convinced.
His shot wakes the team up; Krejci takes out Primeau; Wheeler can’t make the puck settle on his stick to save his life; Jack rattles off the one-liners and Brick does his evil little chuckle. 1-0 game, and it’s already awesome.
10:17, the Bruins take a penalty for high-sticking. Bad Bergy. The #1 PK in the NHL goes to work and destroys that PP and Kessel’s dreams. Tuukka Rask is a magical little elfin brick wall. Jack Edwards starts talking about using booze as antifreeze during the Winter Classic. How do people hate this guy, again?
David Krejci gets caught with the puck behind Tuukka’s net at 17:36. Good rush by Toronto, but the Matrix is a ball of stoicism. Slows it down, gets it to Big Z, and we’re back in the Toronto zone. A flurry of shots and Toskala covers with 2:42 left. Hunwick staples Schenn, and it’s weirdly hot. A bit of fisticuffs as Old Man Rex topples into Toskala; don’t pick on the old man, Komisarek. He’s 41, maybe his balance isn’t so great.
With :25 left, Boychuk staples Kessel. Vladimir Sobotka gets jealous and can’t handle this; with :17 left, he gets his own piece. Kessel gets dropped twice in 8 seconds by until-recently former P-Bruins. That can’t feel good.
Yet again, the period opens with a Boston power play. 10 seconds in, Derek Morris takes a one-in-a-million shot through like 3 Toronto defenders, all huddled around their goaltender, passively pretending like they’re penalty killing. Through it goes, around Toskala, who’s essentially been blinded by his own defenders, and suddenly we’re up 2-0.
The puck spends little time in the Bruins’ zone. When it does come back in, it’s cleared out like so much garbage. At 2:07, Meyers flings his equipment off and grabs Stuey, and Stuey doesn’t take it lightly; however, it’s broken up quickly, and they’ve both got minor penalties. 4-on-4 for 2 minutes. No big deal; we got this.Wideman rings the iron, the big boys get out of the box, and here we go, an actualfacts fight. “And the good news is, we play this team 4 more times this year…we’ve got an old-school nasty going on between Mark Stuart and Jamal Meyers!” says Jack. The crowd and Bruins fans everywhere agree, and there’s 2 5-minute majors tacked on right after 2 2-minute minors. Welcome to Bruins hockey: the way it should be.
Things get frantic from here; Orr picks on Danny Paille, there’s shots flying everywhere. Paille is a champ, but has 0 fighting majors in his career – to Orr’s 74. Not a good matchup.
NESN takes this commercial break to make a ridiculous movie-style “KESSELMANIA II” Promo. Clownshoes. Right off the break, Sobotka rings post again. Kaberle’s fists end up in Krejci’s face. Rask makes an amazing save off a Kaberle shot around 11:00, shuttles the puck to Krejci, and Krejci simply UNDRESSES Toskala on the breakaway. Thanks again, Jack Edwards, and goodnight.
The rest of the period isn’t quiet, but it’s back and forth, chippy, and the Bruins go to the dressing room up 3-0. Comfortable, unaware that Ron Wilson is plotting their demise.
18 Seconds into the third period, things start to go awry. Mikael Grabovski pots a messy goal that Tuukka never sees, and suddenly we’ve got a two-goal game. Still no points for Kessel. The Bruins look like they’re not really sure what to do with these reanimated Leafs, coming back at them like vengeful zombies rising from the basement of the NHL.
4:09 and it happens again, KOMISAREK of all people – the pointless wonder – fires a laser to Kulemin and suddenly it’s a 1-goal game. Claude wisely calls a time out. Things are about to get serious at the TD Garden. The Leafs outshoot the Bruins 10-5 through ten minutes. No 60-minute effort here. This is where the Bruins break down, and need to NOT break down. Frustrating.
The benefit of a faceoff in the Toronto zone at about 10:30 gets the puck back where the B’s want it, but can’t keep it there. Play is chippy in the Bruins zone until FINALLY, FINALLY, krejci-sobotka-ryder get a breakaway.
Denied. Toskala’s showing his stuff.
Kessel gets a teeny opening but gets smothered by Andy Ference and two other Bruins. Tuukka makes a ridiculous save on a Stajan shot. The pressure’s being brought. Quick stat? Bruins have only lost when starting out up by 2 goals ONCE since Claude Julien came in to coach. That one loss? Against the Maple Leafs. Much finger chewing and fretting occurs.
Between 12 minutes and 6 minutes something ridiculous happens – not a single commercial break. You don’t notice a stretch of uninterrupted hockey until the announcers start getting incredulous about it, and Jack and Brick absolutely do. It keeps going. And going. Shots and shots and shots. Sobotka set up by Krejci. The Leafs take it in. Primeau shoots a blank. Back the other way. The speed of play is dizzying and it JUST. WILL. NOT. STOP. Another minute passes. The number of changes on the fly that have happened in this stretch is ridiculous.
Finally, FINALLY, with 4:01 to go, the first commercial break of the 3rd period happens. Jack sounds like he’s about to hyperventilate; Jason Blake goes to the box for a high sticking penalty on Chara. Must have had his stick up pretty high, Blake…
The Leafs clear it a few times, the clock ticks down. One goal games make my heart beat irregularly and I can’t deal. Old Man Recchi clearly understands; he tips in a cross-crease pass with 2:37 to go. Power Play Conversions: I LIKE IT.
Toronto starts busting ass up the ice, but the Bruins’ confidence is back; Toskala leaves the ice with about 1:57 left. 6-on-5. Old Man Recchi clearly isn’t feeling like he’s done enough today; so he pots the ENG.
Game, Set, Match. B’s win 5-2. They’re 8-1-1 in their last 10; Tuukka’s record improves to 9-2-2. Varlamov who?