Bruins Marco Sturm controls the puck under pressure from Maple Leafs Mats Sundin. (CP PHOTO/Adrian Wyld)
Facing an opponent missing two of its top three scorers and playing its second game in as many nights, the Maple Leafs failed to solve Tim Thomas in a 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.
Thomas made 43 saves while Stanislav Chistov, P.J. Axelsson and Jason York had the goals for the Bruins (29-26-4), who improved to 3-1 on a season-long, six-game road trip.
York's goal was his first in 64 games; Chistov's was his first in 20.
More importantly, Boston moved to within four points of Toronto (29-23-8) in the tight Eastern Conference standings. The Bruins have a game in hand.
Andrew Raycroft made his 21st straight start for Toronto and stopped 10 shots before being replaced by J.S. Aubin to start the third period.
This one started heavily tilted in favour of the Maple Leafs, who entered the game against a limping opponent on a 7-1-2 roll since the all-star break.
Glen Murray, Boston's top goal-scorer, tweaked his groin in a win over Philadelphia on Monday and was watching from the press box alongside Patrice Bergeron, who missed a fourth straight game with a lower-body injury of his own.
But like so many other nights at Air Canada Centre this season, Toronto was unable to take advantage, even after being given a 5-on-3 power play less than five minutes into the game.
A Nik Antropov shot off the post was as close as the Leafs got there.
Chistov opened the scoring for Boston at 7:13 after the puck bounced all over Raycroft's crease. The Leafs goalie lunged to smother the puck as Chistov whacked it into the empty goal. He hadn't scored since Dec. 26.
The Bruins looked content to sit on that early advantage. They rarely threatened the Toronto goal until Axelsson broke in on a short-handed rush and wired a shot over Raycroft's glove at 14:14 of the second.
The Maple Leafs must have been wondering what more they needed to do. They had pinned the Bruins deep in their own end for much of the night but couldn't solve Thomas.
York only added to their frustration when he scored at 17:41 of the second to make it 3-0. Boston forward Brandon Bochenski stole the puck off Leafs defenceman Pavel Kubina behind the goal and fed it out to York at the point. His long shot made it through everyone. It was the veteran defenceman's first goal since Jan. 8, 2004, when he was a member of the Nashville Predators.
Toronto led 26-13 on the shots counter after two periods but trailed 3-0. Some of the 19,578 in attendance booed as the players headed to the dressing room.
It probably didn't catch any of the Maple Leafs by surprise. Now 12-13-5 on home ice, they've heard it before.
Notes: Brad Boyes assisted on Boston's second goal. It was just his third point in 25 games . . . Toronto defenceman Brendan Bell skated at forward for a second straight game . . . Leafs centre Matt Stajan hasn't scored in 18 games . . . Bruins centre Marc Savard has 273 points (83 goals, 190 assists) in 243 games since the Calgary Flames traded him to Atlanta for prospect Ruslan Zainullin in November 2002. Zainullin has yet to play in the NHL.