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Kessel and Grabovski’s two goals apiece lead Leafs to 4-3 win over Bruins

February 15, 2011

James Reimer made 32 saves on the night, including a huge save late to give the Leafs a 4-3 win. (AP)

Phil Kessel avoided tying his longest goalless streak and finally broke through against his former team for two power-play goals, propelling the Leafs to a 4-3 win over the Bruins. Mikhail Grabovski‘s goal with 1:01 left in regulation, his second of the night, stole the win for the Leafs. James Reimer made 32 saves for the Leafs, none bigger than his save on David Krejci to preserve the victory. The Bruins have now lost three straight games.

The game started off very fast, much to Toronto’s advantage. Both teams traded ice-length rushes and both goalies had to be ready early. Toronto’s speed and lack of defense made for an exciting first few moments of the game but both Tim Thomas and James Reimer made all the necessary saves early on to keep the game tied. Reimer would stone Brad Marchand on a breakaway bid early on, his best save of the period.

The Bruins would break through a little after eight minutes in when they turned a good defensive play into a quick goal by Daniel Paille. The Bruins had a crisp breakout from behind their net that culminated in Brad Marchand racing up the ice with the puck before dumping to the corner to Paille, Paille smartly wheeled back to Mark Stuart, who was trailing the play. Stuart’s pass got deflected behind the net where Paille was waiting. Paille then quickly tried to wheel a pass out front but it hit a skate and deflected under Reimer. It was a little bit of luck but somewhat deserving considering Paille’s speed was a major factor in that possession.

Things would settle down a bit in the middle of the period with the Bruins settling into board play and dump and chase to win the puck possession battle. Michael Ryder had a good opening period, using his strength to win and maintain pucks making fans wonder why he can’t play like that every night. However, James Reimer did a good job of providing some strong play between the pipes, playing very well considering how sieve-like his defense is.

The Maple Leafs would battle back thanks to some power-play bids late in the period, one of which tied the game. David Krejci was first sent off for a very questionable stick foul and just when it seemed the Bruins would kill off the penalty, Zdeno Chara was called for interference when he planted Mikhail Grabovski into the boards, resulting in an awkward fall into the boards. The Leafs would win the ensuing draw and race into the Bruins zone three abreast. Joffrey Lupul laid a back-pass to Dion Phaneuf who fired off of Thomas’ blocker. The puck then bounced chest level to Phil Kessel who bunted it home under the cross bar for his first goal in 14 games as well as his first goal against his former club.

The Leafs would nearly go up 2-1 late in the period when Thomas inexplicably made a pass to Clarke MacArthur at the top of the crease. MacArthur got a stick on the pass but couldn’t control it, the puck caromed of of his stick and missed the post by a few inches.

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The Leafs would go up early on in the second period when Grabovski had a blocked shot bounce to him and he backhanded it home. Luke Schenn took a shot from Thomas’ right side but it was blocked in traffic. Grabvoski found space on the weak side and the puck bounced right to him on the backhand. At the same time, Thomas appeared to get taken out of the play by Chara when the two interlocked, and Thomas fell to his side. Grabovski took his time and made sure to lift the backhand into the open net.

The Bruins would get a golden chance when Nathan Horton back-passed to Krejci in front who then wheeled to Milan Lucic on Reimer’s other side, Lucic ripped it off the post but the extended length of the possession led to the Bruins first power-play of the game. Krejci would nearly score early in the power-play, missing the top corner by a few inches. The Bruins would then get some extended possession in the Leafs zone but aggressive forwards would pressure the point men into making mistakes.

The Bruins did find some momentum around this time, charging at the net hard and drawing penalties thanks to extended pressure. After the first power-play failed but looked pretty decent, the Bruins would get another crack a few minutes later. This power-play would look impressive as well, with most of the time spent in the power-play formation but with little in the way of shots.

The Bruins would get their third consecutive power-play when Mikhail Grabovski was sent off for high-sticking late in the second period. The third attempt wasn’t pretty, in fact it was the worst power-play yet, but it resulted in a goal when Brad Marchand was able to fist a backhander on net while getting checked and then Gregory Campbell tipped the puck at crossbar height down and in for the game-tying goal late in the second. The play would be reviewed but since it was deemed a goal on the ice, the play stood.

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The Leafs came out running all over the Bruins in the opening minutes, getting the Bruins to scramble all over their zone for a long shift in the Bruins zone in which the Leafs rang two pipes. The Bruins would settle things down in the following minutes though, regaining some of the momentum they built up at the end of the second period.

The Bruins would get the go-ahead goal when Patrice Bergeron out-muscled Phaneuf in front of the net and got to a rebound. Adam McQuaid shot a duck on net that was stopped out front and bounced to space. Reimer couldn’t control the puck and Bergeron got his stick to the ice and put it in after whiffing on his first swipe.

The Leafs would battle back and earn a power-play with under seven minutes left. Kessel, finding confidence for the first time against his old friends, would score his second power-play goal of the game when he deked past Andrew Ference and went backhand-forehand and beat a poke-checking Tim Thomas five-hole to tie the game at a crucial time.

Michael Ryder’s hard work the other way drew a Boston power-play in the next shift, giving the Bruins a good chance to get the lead right back. The power-play went by the way side, looking worse and worse as the game went on.

Mikhail Grabovksi, who altered the game all night long, scored the critical goal with 1:01 left in regulation. He beat his man up the left side of the ice, found space and faked Thomas out enough to open up the top corner. Grabovksi then roofed it over Thomas’ blocker shoulder as Thomas looked to be thinking pass.

The Bruins would then pull their goalie right away and got a nice chance when David Krejci found the puck on his stick in the waning seconds but Reimer came out with the save with his arm. The save preserved the victory for the Leafs.

The Bruins next play the first of back-to-back games on the Island against the Isles.

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