Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky, left, raises his stick after teammate Bryan McCabe beat Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, right, for the third goal in the first period. At centre is Bruins defenseman Paul Mara. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Raycroft made 28 saves in the Toronto Maple Leafs' 6-4 victory over the Bruins. He didn't make it to the end though Thursday night because of a groin strain. In his first game back in Beantown since being traded by the Bruins during the offseason, Raycroft stayed around long enough to win his fifth straight start. Toronto was leading 5-2 when Raycroft was forced out late in the second period.
"The script, it was going to be too good to be true," Raycroft said. "Of course, something has to happen at some point to me. It would have obviously been really nice to finish that."
Raycroft doesn't think the injury is serious, and he should be back within a week.
Jean-Sebastien Aubin replaced Raycroft, and saved just 5 of 7 shots as Boston nearly came all the way back from a four-goal deficit.
Alexei Ponikarovsky had a goal and an assist, and Chad Kilger also scored for the Maple Leafs.
Nik Antropov gave Toronto a 4-0 lead 4:04 into the second period and Ponikarovsky restored the four-goal advantage 1:18 after Marco Sturm netted the Bruins' first goal.
The Bruins pulled to within 5-4 when Wayne Primeau poked Brad Boyes' pass in front of the net past Aubin at 13:31 of the third period. But Aubin held Boston scoreless the rest of the way, and Antropov's empty-net goal sealed it with 11 seconds left.
Hal Gill, who spent the first eight years of his career with Boston before signing with Toronto in the offseason, had an assist for Toronto. Darcy Tucker and Michael Peca also scored for the Maple Leafs, who have won six of seven.
Marc Savard and P.J. Axelsson added goals for the Bruins, who have lost three of four.
"We have to stay calm and patient every night, and it will come," Savard said. "But we can't give up five goals every night and expect to win."
Raycroft was the NHL's top rookie in the 2003-04 season when he won 29 games for the Bruins. But he started slowly last season and was hampered by a knee injury, losing his starting job to Tim Thomas and Hannu Toivonen.
Raycroft made 19 saves in the first period Thursday and nine more in the second to improve to 9-4-2. He went 8-19-2 in his final season with the Bruins. Since allowing seven goals in a 7-2 loss at Ottawa on Oct. 26, Raycroft has allowed only eight goals in five games.
"I thought he was great, he played awesome," Gill said. "It's a shame that he did something to his (groin). You hate to see him leave in a game like that."
While Raycroft has already won more games than last season, Thomas and Toivonen have struggled.
Toivonen was sent to Providence of the AHL on Tuesday, and Thomas allowed three first-period goals on just 10 Maple Leafs shots to fall to 2-4-2.
Brian Finley replaced Thomas to start the second period after Toronto took a 3-0 lead despite being outshot 19-10 in the opening 20 minutes.
"It was a goalie change to grab the attention of the players," Boston coach Dave Lewis said. "As a group, our defence did not play well enough to win the hockey game."
Seven seconds after Milan Jurcina was called for tripping at 2:12, Tucker scored off Jeff O'Neill's pass to make the score 1-0.
Peca scored at 17:03, and Kilger made it 3-0 exactly two minutes later.
Finley, recalled from Providence on Tuesday to replace Toivonen, allowed two more goals in the second period.
Notes: Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin missed his first game because of a torn ligament in his right elbow. Sundin, injured during Toronto's win over Philadelphia on Monday, is expected to miss 3-to-4 weeks. ... D Brad Stuart returned to Boston's lineup after missing five games with a fractured right pinkie. ... Nine of Tucker's 11 goals have come on the power play. ... Boston RW Glen Murray played in his 900th NHL game. ... Toronto has scored at least four goals in six of seven games.