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Balanced Attack Leads Leafs

Saturday, 19.03.2011 / 9:46 PM / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer  - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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Balanced Attack Leads Leafs

 
RELATED: A Closer Look: Quite The Night For Leafs | Recap
VIDEO: Game In Six | Wilson | Schenn | Crabb | Phaneuf | Reimer
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Those commanding long-ago maritime invasions had two duties.

First, deliver their fighters from the great ships to enemy soil.

Second, set the ships on fire.

The effect of the burning crafts in the water was cathartic to the invaders. There was no way out, no way home but to fight.

The Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 5-2 Saturday at Air Canada Centre. With Buffalo’s win over Atlanta, the Leafs audacious climb back into the playoff sits where it did at the beginning of the night: four points short only now with nine games to play.

The Leafs will play five of their next six games on the road with stops in Minnesota, Colorado, Detroit, Boston and Ottawa.

The boat is burning. No way out, no way home but to fight.

“Yeah, I would agree with that,” said winning goalie James Reimer. “It’s desperate and we have to stay strong and hope that will mean a couple more weeks of hockey.”

Said defenceman Keith Aulie, a goalscorer on the night: “we said we can’t go back to where we were in Florida on Thursday. We refocused and got ourselves re-energized.”

While the Maple Leafs are still in water up to their neck at 32-31-10 and got little from their top two lines, it was a convincing night nonetheless.

Uber prospect Nazem Kadri, goalless in his first 20 games for the Leafs was the owner of a two-point night with a goal and an assist and brought speed and flair by the bucketload.

“You felt a playoff atmosphere before the game,” Kadri said. “We knew we had to come out guns blazing.”

The Leafs handed the Bruins only their third regulation loss in 13 games and the contest marked only the sixth time in 71 games the league’s stingiest defensive team had been torched for five goals.

The Leafs won the old fashioned way.  First, good goaltending.

After a night off against Florida, Thursday, James Reimer stopped all but two of 37 shots. The score was misleading, the Bruins were not without chances but Reimer thoroughly outplayed Tim Thomas, the league leader in goaltending stats as well as his successor, former Leaf prospect Tuukka Rask. Reimer delivered the key stop of the night, a sprawling stop to thwart a Tyler Seguin breakaway in the second to preserve a one-goal lead.

One Boston goal came in the first when Adam McQuaid ventured deep into the Leafs end and banked a shot off defenceman Dion Phaneuf. The other marker was a last-minute convert of a bouncing puck by the Bruins’ Daniel Paille.

Second, the Leafs delivered a poised, opportunistic game. The Leafs were only tagged with two penalties, a cheapie in which Tim Brent was tagged for shooting the puck into the stands and a disputed goalie interference call on Mike Brown.  All three pairings, Phaneuf and Keith Aulie, a goalscorer on the night, Luke Schenn and Matt Lashoff and Brett Lebda with Carl Gunnarsson, worked seamlessly.

Last, the Leafs got plenty of offence from the supporting cast. Kadri worked with Darryl Boyce and Joey Crabb. The line combined for six points and goals for Kadri and Crabb.

Schenn opened the scoring with a dash from his own blue line all the way to the Boston crease. McQuaid answered with his bank shot, then Kadri scored on a floater from near the blue line that Thomas hasn’t seen yet.

In the second, Crabb poked in a loose puck, Mike Brown blew past Tomas Kaberle and put a shot through Thomas’ pads and Aulie, once again flashing dexterous hands for such a big man, beat Rask.

And so for all the hoopla, the Leafs are no closer to where they want to be than they were when the game began. The Leafs play in Minnesota on Tuesday.

“We want to climb all the way back,” said Crabb. “We’re going to keep going. Every other team may be saying that but I think we’re up to the challenge.”
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