Skip to main content

Leafs show toughness in pre-season opener, get beat 3-2 by Boston

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

TORONTO - These certainly look like Brian Burke's Toronto Maple Leafs.

As the puck dropped on another pre-season, there were fists and bodies flying all over the Air Canada Centre ice - examples of the "truculence" the team's general manager is so fond of.

However, there wasn't quite enough offence from the home side as former Maple Leaf Andy Wozniewski's third-period goal gave the Boston Bruins a 3-2 win on Wednesday night.

The result shouldn't be entirely surprising given that the Maple Leafs elected to keep their skilled veteran players out of the game. Instead, they started mostly rookies and tough guys who were all eager to make an impact - in most cases a physical one.

"People aren't going to notice what I do on the ice unless I fight," said forward Andre Deveaux, who dropped the gloves twice. "I'm not flashy."

The Leafs kicked off a hectic pre-season schedule that will see them play nine times in 12 days and dressed 10 players that have been acquired since Burke took over as general manager last November. The GM hasn't made any secret of the fact that he thinks the team needs to be tougher to be better.

A couple newcomers made their presence felt early as Garnet Exelby and Colton Orr each came out hitting on their very first shift wearing a Leafs uniform. Shortly after, Deveaux squared off with Steve Begin - one of five fights on the evening.

By then, it was pretty clear to Boston what kind of night it was going to be.

"You could really tell they wanted to send that message that they're going to be a big, tough team," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand. "They were running all over the place, trying to take guys' heads off, there was five or six fights out there.

"They really want to show guys can play that style of game and I think for every team that comes in here it's going to be the same way."

Wozniewski ended up spoiling the party by beating Joey MacDonald high at 7:02 of the third period.

Since finishing the 2007-08 season in Toronto, the 28-year-old defecenman has bounced between the AHL affiliates of St. Louis and Pittsburgh before signing a deal over the summer with Boston. He felt pretty good about getting a rare goal against his former teammates.

"Absolutely," said Wozniewski. "That's obviously nice, doing it anywhere, but obviously playing here and stuff, it definitely feels good."

Begin and Marchand also scored for Boston while Tyler Bozak and Viktor Stalberg replied for Toronto.

Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson was pleased with the play of guys like Bozak, Stalberg, Nazem Kadri and Christian Hanson - all young guys with limited or no NHL experience.

Toronto was at its best during a spirited first period that was not only puctuated by hits and fights, but also Bozak's highlight-reel goal.

The highly-coveted college free agent was on solo short-handed rush when he turned Bruins defenceman Matt Hunwick inside out and beat Dany Sabourin high at 13:38. Moves like that will certainly increase his odds of cracking Wilson's lineup.

"Luckily, I got through and saw the open spot there," said Bozak.

A pair of power-play goals gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead in the second period.

Begin beat Vesa Toskala from the side of the net at 3:18 while Marchand roofed a shot over MacDonald - who relieved Toskala midway through the game - at 13:16. The Leafs struggled mightily with their penalty killing last season and will need to be much better this year, especially since they'll likely spend plenty of time in the penalty box.

"If you want to win a game you have to play hockey a little bit, too," cautioned Begin.

Stalberg managed to tie the game before the period ran out, taking a pass from first-round pick Kadri, stepping out from behind the goal-line and sliding it under Sabourin at 16:03. Stalberg is another young player who is on the bubble.

The Leafs pressed hard after Wozniewski put the Bruins back ahead in the third period but were unable to solve Sabourin.

Jason Allison, trying to earn a contract after playing just one season over the last six years, didn't make much of an impact for Toronto. He found it tough to get in any kind of rhythm.

"I'm trying to create things down low off the cycle and stuff like that," said Allison. "Tonight we really didn't have much of that. (There was) a lot of back and forth in the neutral zone. For myself, I need to get few shifts down low to really get myself in a groove."

Added Wilson: "He looked like he pooped out in the second half of the game."

Notes: Announced attendance was 16,872 on a night the tickets were given away for free ... The Leafs outhit the Bruins 32-21 ... Toronto was 1-4-1 against the Bruins last season ... Kadri's assist came in his first NHL pre-season game ... Ex-Habs coach Guy Carbonneau, now an analyst for CBC, watched from the press box ... Only one Boston player wore a jersey number lower than 22 (No. 6 Dennis Wideman) ... Francois Beauchemin, Ian White and Wayne Primeau were the Leafs alternate captains.



NHL Hot Seat Radar: Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins' competitive window is shrinking – something that happens to virtually every successful franchise – so it's up to the team's management to see how they approach both the short- and long-term future.

Juraj Slafkovsky

Prospect Pool Overview: Montreal Canadiens

From making the Stanley Cup final to snagging the first overall pick, the Montreal Canadiens have had a riveting last year and a half. Tony Ferrari looks at the team's prospect pool and who you need to get excited about.


Jets Sign Appleton to Three-Year Extension, Avoid Arbitration

The Winnipeg Jets and forward Mason Appleton have avoided arbitration, agreeing to terms on a three-year contract extension.