This was a game that got out of hand in a hurry, the Bruins scoring so quickly they chased Toronto starting goalie Vesa Toskala after 4 minutes 34 seconds and a pair of goals, and the Maple Leafs countering with a flurry of second-period shots that floated past Boston goalie Tim Thomas like big snowflakes, drifting into the net and rapidly accumulating.
After the first period, the Bruins had a 2-1 lead; after two periods it was 6-5, Boston, and Thomas had been replaced by Manny Fernandez. When time finally ran out, the Bruins had a slapdash 8-5 victory and David Krejci had his first NHL hat trick. It was about the only thing that could prompt a smile from Thomas, as Patrice Bergeron retrieved the souvenir puck for the 22-year-old Czech.
In the midst of chaos, Krejci was a calm presence. He gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead at 4:34 on the power play, taking the easy pickings offered by a Milan Lucic pass and the target Toskala set up in the center of the net. Krejci's first shot bounced off Toskala's pads, but he carefully collected the rebound and tucked it behind the goalie. That prompted Toronto coach Ron Wilson to replace Toskala with Curtis Joseph.
But Krejci's second goal, at 2:03 of the second, made Toronto's second goalie look even sillier. With the Bruins leading, 3-1, Blake Wheeler broke down the left wing, and Krejci followed. Wheeler shunted a pass to Krejci, and the young center skated to the left side of the net. Krejci then pulled up and folded a shot inside the post, behind Joseph.
"I couldn't get a shot in, even when I went around him," said Krejci, trying to explain the virtually unexplainable.
Krejci then said he was trying a shot he had never done before.
"The guys tell me in the room that I'm doing stuff in slow motion," said Krejci, "but I think I'm doing it fast."
"If you give him some room, I think he can score some goals," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "I think he's a pretty nifty scorer."
While Thomas suffered through one of his weaker games, and the Bruins' defense suffered all over the ice, Toronto crept back into it with four second-period goals. For the third period, the Bruins came out with Manny Fernandez in the net, and a tighter defensive stance. When Toronto stumbled, the Bruins wrapped up the victory with a pair of power-play goals. First, Michael Ryder picked a corner for his 11th goal of the season at 10:42, and then Krejci completed his hat trick at 15:44 while the Bruins had a five-on-three advantage. Taking a cross-slot pass from Marc Savard, Krejci planted a shot into the open left side of the net for his 11th of the season.
TD Banknorth Garden had another sellout crowd of 17,565, and it seemed as if most of them went home cold as scores of hats came flying onto the ice. But unlike the salute for Wheeler's first hat trick, against Toronto Nov. 6, this time there were no brassieres on the ice.
"I'm not as popular," said Krejci with a smile, and added that his last hat trick was "sometime back in junior in Canada." Krejci said the game was played in Drummondville, Quebec, not his home ice, and not a single hat was tossed.
Krejci's three goals gave him his 10th multipoint game of the season. He has 8 points (three goals, five assists) in his last three games.
"I felt pretty good all season," he said. "The atmosphere before games, practice, it just feels so good. That's how I feel about my game."
The first time Julien saw Krejci - last season - he was not that impressed. "After a while we decided it was time he went back to Providence," said Julien. "I don't think we'll be sending him down now, especially the way he's been playing.
"He wasn't as determined to play, to compete every night the way he does now . . . Again, it's about giving guys a chance to develop. Sometimes going down to the minors and giving them a chance to play more and at the same time giving them the bug to want to come back to the NHL even more determined, I think that's sort of the thing that happened to him last year. When he came back he was a different player and I think from the time he came back to the end of the year he still continued to grow and be more of an impact player for us."
Barbara Matson can be reached at email@example.com.