It was an uplifting way for the injury-riddled Leafs to begin 2007.
After earning only three of 12 available points in their previous six games, the Leafs produced their best effort in weeks to move even with the idle New York Rangers in the conference and jump out of the Northeast Division basement a point ahead of Boston.
Mats Sundin scored two goals and Hal Gill, Kris Newbury and Jeff O’Neill got one each for the Leafs, 18-17-6, who got outstanding goaltending from Andrew Raycroft.
Zdeno Chara scored for the weary Bruins, 19-15-3, who were playing their third road game in four nights. Relegation to the division cellar might be only temporary since they have four games in hand on Toronto.
The teams exchanged early power-play goals. The six-foot-nine Chara parked his 260 pounds at the front of Raycroft’s crease and put in a rebound at 4:51 with Boston enjoying a two-man advantage, and Sundin redirected a Bryan McCabe pass behind Tim Thomas at 8:09.
It was Sundin’s 513th goal, moving him past Gilbert Perreault for sole possession of 32nd spot on the all-time list.
Darcy Tucker, who missed the previous two games after taking a puck off his left foot, got a rough ride into corner boards when he was tripped by Paul Mara in the 11th minute. It was an obvious infraction to most of the 19,359 spectators, but the referees missed it.
Gill put Toronto up 2-1 when he swung at a sliding puck as he crashed into a Bruin near the top of the circle to the right of the Boston net. The puck arced into the air and found the far top corner of the net at 12:19 as Chad Kilger screened Thomas, who fell in the crease as the puck entered the net.
Tucker was elbowed to the ice by Andrew Alberts in the 19th minute in the same corner where Mara took him down. Alberts was penalized and Tucker, blood flowing down his face, just missed scoring a third Toronto goal during the power play.
If the teams played to form the rest of the game, Toronto would get the two points: it was 9-2-2 when leading after one period this season, and Boston was 1-9-0 when trailing after one.
Toronto’s fourth forward line – Newbury, Ben Ondrus and Wade Belak, who got only two shifts in the first period – engineered the third Toronto goal with physical in-the-trenches hustle.
With Belak battling Chara for a loose puck in a corner, Newbury gained possession and took a bad-angle shot that surprised Thomas. The puck struck the goalie’s stick blade and caromed over the line – oh, so slowly – as he lunged for it. The goal, at 12:24 of the second period, was the first in an NHL game for Newbury. The 24-year-old native of nearby Brampton was appearing in his fifth game since being summoned from the AHL Toronto Marlies because of all the Leafs’ injuries.
Sundin took two strides over the Boston blue-line and slapped a low rocket past Thomas two minutes into the third period. It was the captain’s sixth goal in five games and his 18th of the season.
Sundin then set up O’Neill with a cross-crease pass for redirection into the open side of the net for a power-play goal at 5:13.
Toronto had a 35-28 shots edge.
Notes: On power plays, Toronto was 2-for-6 and Boston was 1-for-4 . . . Boston leads the season series 3-2-1 . . . Toronto’s next game is Thursday in Boston and it plays at home Saturday against Buffalo . . . C Mike Peca (broken leg, Dec. 22), C Kyle Wellwood (hip flexor, Dec. 21), RW Alexei Ponikarovsky (shoulder, Dec. 21) and C Nik Antropov (sprained ankle, Dec. 6) remained out. RW Aleksander Suglobov and D Brendan Bell were healthy scratches . . . The Leafs were 4-7-2 in earning only 10 of a possible 26 points in December . . . Another 11 goals and Sundin will have 390 in a Leafs uniform, which would make him the all-time leading goal scorer in club history. Darryl Sittler scored 389 . . . Boston rookie Phil Kessel, who has missed 10 games since beginning treatment for testicular cancer, has been cleared to resume skating. Also out of Boston’s lineup was RW Jeff Hoggan (shoulder) . . . The Bruins gave up 18 goals in going 1-2-1 in their last four games.