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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Seeing is be-Leaf-ing

Toronto gets needed confidence boost with sold win in Beantown

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BOSTON -- Minutes after leading the Leafs to a rare win over the Bruins at the TD Garden, winger Joffrey Lupul was thinking about coming home.

And the blue-and-white horde that awaits the return of the NHL playoffs in Toronto.

"I think it will be crazy," Lupul said after a two-goal performance in a 4-2 Leafs' victory Saturday night. "With the win tonight and with (the playoff wait) whatever it is, eight, nine years, I saw the videos of the other day of everyone crowded around Maple Leaf Square (outside the Air Canada centre).

"I'm really excited. I'm thinking about it already. It's only 20 minutes after the last game but I can't wait to get out Monday. Those fans deserve it. And hopefully the building's crazier than ever."

The Leafs return home for games Monday and Wednesday with the best-of-seven series tied at 1-1 after a rousing, full-blooded victory over the Bruins.

Toronto looked in over its head Wednesday in its first appearance in the post-season since 2004, a disappointing 4-1 loss that increased Boston's home mastery over the Leafs to 12-1-1 in the last 14 meetings.

But the Leafs came out skating and hitting Saturday in a high-octane second game that was intense from the opening faceoff. Looking like a worthy playoff outfit, Toronto outshot the Bruins 12-10 in the first period and outhit them 22-10.

Toronto also got goals from Phil Kessel, a rare score against his former employer, and James van Riemsdyk.

Trailing 1-0 early in the second period, Toronto reeled off three unanswered goals before Johnny Boychuk cut the deficit to 3-2 at 10:35 of the third period with a point shot that went in off James Reimer's glove and Tyler Bozak's body.

The Boychuk goal cranked up the tension -- and the noise. TD Garden was packed with 17,565 -- the Bruins' 156th straight sellout -- and they were into it.

Van Riemsdyk silenced the crowd with 3:07 remaining, when the big man managed to pull off a pirouette while parked in front of goal, spinning before putting the puck in off goalie Tuukka Rask for an insurance goal and a 4-2 lead.

It was a game that helped reaffirm the fifth-seeded Leafs' self-belief after a poor end to the regular season and a wobbly opening to the playoffs.

"Tonight eliminated that doubt," said Toronto coach Randy Carlyle. "When we play our game and skate off the puck and move it effectively, we can be a hockey club that can compete.

"We don't make any other statement other than we can go out there and compete."

Nathan Horton also scored for fourth-seeded Boston, which is no stranger to venturing into hostile territory. Winners of the Cup two seasons ago, the Bruins are battle-hardened.

"We know it's going to be noisy," Boston coach Claude Julien said of Toronto. "There's going to be a lot of electricity in the air. But we have to face that.

"We're the bad team coming in. What you've got to do is focus on your job and hopefully not let that kind of stuff throw you off your game."

The playoff drought has been lengthy and painful to Toronto hockey fans, most of whom cannot afford to pay Air Canada Centre prices. It may be mostly Bay Street bankers face-painting for the most part, but the city will be buzzing outside.

Scalpers must be licking their lips.

"We've got the best fans in the National Hockey League so I'm sure they'll be excited to cheer loud," said Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf. "We're happy with the way that we played tonight but we've got lots of work to do yet."

Carlyle, while welcoming the expected home hoopla, has other things on his mind.

"It's great that our fans are enthusiastic and all of the passion that our fans do demonstrate, we think it's a great thing for our city," said the coach. "But again we've got a job to do and we've got to focus, and the game's won on the ice ... We have to prepare ourselves to play a better Boston club on Monday, I guarantee you. They'll be better than they were tonight."

The hit count was 44-35 in Toronto's favour. Boston held a 41-32 edge in shots. The Bruins won the faceoff battle 49-27.

While the Leafs excelled on the night, a gritty Bruins team refused to yield in a high-stakes game that delivered great entertainment.

Unlike the first game, Toronto moved the puck up the ice quickly and didn't turn it over. The quick movement resulted in odd-man rushes that kept the Bruins off balance.

"We didn't turn it over," said Carlyle. "To me that was the biggest difference between tonight and Wednesday. We just didn't self-destruct.

"We worked hard and we competed and we got a few breaks go our way."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 5, 2013 B3

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