BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 03: Johnny Boychuk #55 of the Boston Bruins takes a shot to score a goal in the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs on December 3, 2011 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Bruins defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
I'm sort of tired of making jokes about the Leafs withering, which means this is probably going to be a tough recap to write.
With the exception of a few shifts at opportune times after Bruins goals, Toronto looked like a team that had already made peace with losing their season series throughout the course of a 4-1 Bruins win that probably should have been a lot more lopsided.
James Reimer returned to net for Toronto for the first time in 42 days and weathered a fierce, if disorganized Bruins attack in the first period, only to be hung out to dry by his defense early in the second period, when David Krejci found a hole in the Leafs' zone and Nathan Horton threaded him a pass on the tape that the Bruins center neatly deposited stick-side.
Toronto countered on the next shift when Mikhail Grabovski beat Tuukka Rask on a goal that Rask would like to have back, but that was the end of Toronto's resistance, save for a bush-league fight with Joe Corvo that Joey Crabb initiated with a late hit with 5:30 to play in the game.
"I'm not scoring goals, so I figured I needed to do something," Corvo quipped after the game about the fight.
Rich Peverley found a crashing Chris Kelly later in the second period and, with Benoit Pouliot attracting the attention of Luke Schenn, threaded a pass across the crease that Kelly casually tapped in to give the Bruins the lead, and they wouldn't look back.
A slew of strong shifts kept the Bruins in control in the third. Three minutes into the period, after Johnny Boychuk cleaned out Tim Connolly at the Boston blue line, he got the puck from Brad Marchand and fired a slapshot from the right point that beat Reimer glove-side high.
It was his third goal of the season, and all three have come from the same spot on the same sheet of ice. So you'd think that there was something special going on with that location.
"I don't even shoot from that spot in practice," Boychuk said after the game. "I usually shoot from the left side."
Guess not, then.
Later in the period, a strong shift by the Krejci line finished wearing down Toronto, and a Nathan Horton goal with 5:24 remaining in the game polished off the Leafs for the fourth time this season, giving the Bruins the season series and sole control of first place in the Northeast Division heading into Monday's tilt with Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh.
After the game, Corvo talked about the Krejci shift that finally broke Toronto's will, but he might as well have been talking about the entire game, and maybe even the series with the Leafs this year.
"It kind of seemed like a moment where we were silently saying, 'try and hang with us,' kind of like a challenge. We knew they were tired and it was kind of like a shark when there's blood in the water."
Blood in the water, indeed.