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Maple Leafs 4, Bruins 3

Bruins fall back in OT

Leafs erase 3 deficits to make their points

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / March 10, 2010

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TORONTO - With the manner in which Tim Thomas turned aside chance after Toronto chance late in regulation and overtime - no soup for you, Phil Kessel, Luke Schenn, and Mikhail Grabovski - the Bruins netminder seemed poised for further heroics in the shootout.

But he never got the chance to steal a point for his team.

In the final minute of overtime, a backchecking Michael Ryder wiped out Thomas, leaving the net wide open. Nikolai Kulemin said thanks, buried the puck with 49.7 seconds remaining, and helped the Maple Leafs boot the Bruins out of Air Canada Centre last night with a 4-3 OT loss that left them with 1 lousy point against the East’s worst club.

“Huge point that we let by,’’ said Patrice Bergeron, who centered the only effective line. “We need them all.

“With 18 games left, we know we’re in the race. We can’t lose those points. We need to make sure that in the next game, those 2 points are huge. Especially with teams coming up, Philly and Montreal, they’re teams that are right there in the race as well.’’

Ryder and David Krejci, lifeless on offense (zero shots between them), were part of the decisive defensive breakdown. Dennis Wideman, pinching far up the right wing to create a chance, fell to the ice. Kulemin raced to the wall, dug the puck out from under Wideman, brushed off Krejci’s check, and turned the other way.

Ryder, seeing his linemate in trouble, floated over to the boards to seal off Kulemin. But before Ryder arrived, Kulemin shuttled the puck forward to Grabovski, who flew down the left wing with only Matt Hunwick back on defense.

As Kulemin pulled away to create a two-on-one with Grabovski, Ryder, having failed to contain the puck at the far blue line, hustled back. When Grabovski slid a cross-crease pass to Kulemin, Ryder dived to break up the dish. But an instant after he got a piece of the puck, he got all of Thomas, who had slid from right to left in anticipation of Kulemin’s attempt.

“I thought it was a two-on-two,’’ said Thomas (26 saves). “That’s what I thought at the time, anyways.

“I was just trying to follow the puck. It went over to the guy out front. Rydes slid and broke up the pass or blocked the shot, I’m not sure.

“Me and Rydes basically collided. He backchecked so hard that he slid in. I couldn’t get back to the other side of the net. Me and him got tangled up.’’

The Bruins, already missing Marc Savard because of his Grade 2 concussion, got word yesterday morning that Zdeno Chara would be unavailable because of a lower-body injury. Even against the lowly Leafs, such absences were sure to hurt.

But only one line was able to bring the good stuff last night.

“I thought they played well tonight,’’ coach Claude Julien said of the No. 1 line of Bergeron, Mark Recchi, and Marco Sturm. “They generated a lot and had some good opportunities. We’re going to need more of that. We’re going to need more of that from other lines as well.’’

Recchi (rebound of a Dennis Seidenberg shot at 2:47 of the first), Sturm (five-on-three power-play goal at 13:49 of the second), and Bergeron (rebound of a Wideman slap shot at 3:07 of the third) provided the offense against Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson (26 saves). They chased down pucks in the offensive zone. They created turnovers. They played efficiently in their own zone.

Three times, Bergeron’s line gave the Bruins one-goal leads. But three times, the Leafs rallied to tie. After Milan Lucic coughed up the puck in the offensive zone, Schenn spotted Wayne Primeau streaking up the middle. Primeau shook off Hunwick and snapped a wrister that dribbled through Thomas’s pads at 10:34 of the first.

With 1:22 remaining in the second, after Mark Stuart lost a puck battle in the defensive zone, Carl Gunnarsson’s long-distance shot sailed through a Wideman screen, possibly deflecting off another body before beating Thomas to make it a 2-2 game.

Then in the third, Toronto rookie Luca Caputi - who crashed into Thomas in the second, drawing zero response from the Bruins - rapped in the rebound of a Schenn slapper to erase a 3-2 advantage at 7:13.

“Lot of back and forth,’’ Julien said. “At the end, it was decided by an unfortunate break for us - second effort by a player that ended up taking his goalie out. Unfortunate break. But you’ve got to turn the page and move on.’’

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