Bruins overcome line-matching in 5-2 win

 

 
 
 
 
Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer looks back as he is scored on by Boston Bruins forward Daniel Paille during second period NHL hockey playoff action in Toronto on Monday, May 6, 2013.
 

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer looks back as he is scored on by Boston Bruins forward Daniel Paille during second period NHL hockey playoff action in Toronto on Monday, May 6, 2013.

Photograph by: Nathan Denette, CP

TORONTO — When new head coach Randy Carlyle met with the players last summer and told them he planned on matching lines more diligently in the upcoming season, Phil Kessel thought nothing of it.

Every coach matches lines. You have to in this league. Usually it means making sure the fourth-line enforcers are not out against the top-line scorers. But Kessel, who has been forced to change positions and linemates on the fly in an attempt to get the right matchup, now understands why some refer to Carlyle as a mad scientist.

“He’s been doing that all year, right?” said Kessel, who had a goal in a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series. Boston leads 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

“I guess it makes the other team play to your game. Yeah, it takes some getting used to, getting on getting off all the time, but I think as a team we’ve bought into that.

“We’re just used to it now. It’s been all year and it’s working.”

It worked in Game 2, with Carlyle sounding like an over-protective mother as he called the players back to the bench seconds after they had jumped onto the ice in an attempt to keep Kessel away from Zdeno Chara’s smothering defence. It was micromanaging at the highest level. But because Kessel scored the game-winner on a shift freed from Chara, the coach looked like a genius.

On Monday, the results were almost as effective. Kessel scored a power-play goal and was on the ice for another power-play goal. But he also gave away the puck on the power play for a short-handed breakaway goal by Boston’s Daniel Paille.

Still, in a game where the Leafs fired 47 shots — their most of the year — but were rewarded with just two goals, Chara was not the problem so much as goaltender Tuukka Rask.

“We don’t have the last change, but we feel confident with the D we have to get the right guys out there,” said Boston coach Claude Julien, who had Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk against Kessel. “This is a Leafs team, it’s not a Kessel team. There are some good players on that team that we have to look after, rather than worrying just about Phil. It’s not a one-man show out there.”

In terms of Toronto’s offence, it was Kessel’s show on Monday. The speedy winger, who was serenaded with “Thank you, Kessel” chants throughout the game, was the Leafs most dangerous forward.

In the second period, Kessel set up Joffrey Lupul for a one-timer on a 2-on-1 opportunity in the second and fed Tyler Bozak with a pass in front of the crease later on the same shift. And though he was not credited with an assist on Jake Gardiner’s power-play goal, he was a reason why the defenceman had room to take the shot.

In the third period, with Toronto down 4-1 and Boston’s Milan Lucic in the penalty box, Kessel swatted in a rebound off a James van Riemsdyk shot to bring the Leafs back in the game. It was a clutch goal for the Leafs regular-season scoring leader, who often gets criticized for his lack of intensity.

“He’s been a go-to guy for us for years now,” Bozak said of Kessel. “He’s going to be a guy that we rely upon in the playoffs and he’s going to be a guy that gets us through.”

Kessel started the game on a line with Nazem Kadri and Ryan Hamilton, but took several shifts with Bozak and Lupul and even played a little left wing. It all depended on whether Chara was on the ice — and where.

“Obviously, he’s the best defenceman in the league,” Kessel said of Chara, “so getting away from him is nice sometimes.”

For a while, the line matchups worked just to plan. According to TimeOnIce.com, of the 14 minutes that Kessel logged in the first two periods, less than half came with Chara on the ice. During those minutes of so-called freedom, Kessel was at his most effective.

The problem for the Leafs, who have yet to get a goal from Kadri, Bozak or Mikhail Grabovski, is finding others who can match that effectiveness.

 
 
 
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Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer looks back as he is scored on by Boston Bruins forward Daniel Paille during second period NHL hockey playoff action in Toronto on Monday, May 6, 2013.
 

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer looks back as he is scored on by Boston Bruins forward Daniel Paille during second period NHL hockey playoff action in Toronto on Monday, May 6, 2013.

Photograph by: Nathan Denette, CP

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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