Phil Kessel

Kessel leads Leafs to dominant win

Many of the Leafs players entered Wednesday’s game with a pair of devastating losses to the Bruins still fresh in their minds.

There was the humiliation at TD Garden in the infamous Game 7 collapse of 2013. NBC – the network hosting “Rivalry Night” and forcing the game to an unconventional 8pm start time – pitched the questions “collapse or comeback?” (just about every Leafs fan knows the answer).

Adding insult to injury, the Boston team that came into Air Canada Centre 18 days ago cruised to a 4-1 win despite playing their first of many games without injured All-Star defenceman Zdeno Chara.

The embarrassment of that October 25 stinker appears to have been a rallying cry for the Leafs. They pummeled their Atlantic Division nemesis 6-1 on Wednesday, the largest margin of victory against any team this season.

Leading the way was one-time Bruins draft pick Phil Kessel, who sniped a pair of goals – one from each side of the ice. In potting Toronto’s first two tallies, Kessel used his patented trademark shot that has catapulted him into one of the league’s most consistent scorers.

“They beat us pretty good last time, you never want to lose a game like that,” Kessel said of the Leafs’ previous outing against the Bruins. “I thought we did the little things (right) tonight.”

Since handing over the two points to the Beantowners just less than three weeks ago, Toronto has compiled a 6-1-1 record in the eight games played since then. The reunited top line of Kessel with James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak is firing on all cylinders with the latter two players each scoring once on Wednesday.

The balanced distribution of scoring was also evident with Morgan Rielly finding the back of the net and Peter Holland extending his goal-scoring streak to three games. With Holland centering the third line with Leo Komarov and Mike Santorelli, the trio effectively cycled the puck, giving their opponents very little possession time.

“Playing with these guys makes the game easy,” Holland said. “We’re not worried about who’s the centreman and who’s the winger. When we’re in the defensive zone, it’s not about me being the low forward because I’m the centre; it’s just whoever is the first (man) back. We just seem to read really well off each other, and it’s going well right now.”

Jonathan Bernier stopped all but one of the 26 shots directed his way.

Special teams were also the order of the night with the Leafs going 3-for-4 on the power-play while killing all 3 Bruins penalties. The victory was arguably Toronto’s most complete team game of the season.

Kessel was easily the catalyst, and the game’s first star. However the complementary scoring and the third-line shutdown effectiveness were also crucial to the win.

Notes: Cody Franson earned an assist on Kessel’s first goal to extend his point streak to five games, a career high…Defenceman Stephane Robidas played in his 900th career NHL game…Olympians Natalie Spooner and Laura Fortino were on hand to promote the first annual CWHL All-Star game, a game free to all attendees that will be played at ACC on December 13. Later that evening, the Leafs will host the Detroit Red Wings …Attendance at ACC was 19,264.

Leafs lines:
van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Kessel
Winnik-Kadri-Clarkson
Komarov-Holland-Santorelli
Panik-Smith-Leivo

Defence pairings:
Phaneuf-Franson
Rielly-Robidas
Gardiner-Polak

Starter: Bernier
Backup:
Reimer

Attendance: 19,264

Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca

Follow TMLfans.ca on Twitter: @Rob_DelMundo