By Joe Haggerty
TORONTO The expansive Toronto stage was set for Tomas Kaberle to come up big and show everyone at the Air Canada Centre what he was all about in his first appearance against his former Leafs team.
The Leafs organization put together a nice video tribute on their jumbotron during a TV timeout in the first period set to the music of U2s Where the Streets Have No Name, and a warm ovation washed over Kaberle as he waved to the crowd from the Boston bench.
Kaberle admitted afterward that the night turned into much more of an emotional endeavor than he ever anticipated, and perhaps that played into the Bs defenseman playing an invisible game. It sounds like the Bruins defenseman was a little distracted to say the least, so hes got some make-up work to do in the final 11 games as Boston readies for the playoffs.
It was an emotional night. Its always tough when you lose, and there were a lot of things going through my mind all night, said Kaberle. It was a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be.
But that was the only highlight for the 33-year-old defenseman as he was otherwise silent in a 5-2 shellacking of the Bruins by the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. The Bs power play went 0-for-2 to make it 2-for-34 since Kaberles arrival in Boston and the puck-moving defenseman was badly beaten by Toronto blue collar forward Mike Brown in a race to the puck for the Leafs fourth goal of the game.
Kaberle now has three assists and only one power play assist in 13 games along with a plus-4 since arriving in Boston, and its time for the offensively-gifted defenseman to shift into a higher gear with a hockey team that badly needs his puck skills.
Zdeno Chara took a Mikhail Grabovski puck to his left foot in the waning moments of the third period that felled the 6-foot-9 defenseman, and caused pockets of cheers throughout the Air Canada Centre at the sight of the fallen Bruins Captain.
It was a normal hockey, said Chara. Its okay. Its just part of the game.
It was an ugly moment in Toronto to be sure, but Chara said he thought hed be fine following the game. He was walking around the Bruins dressing room without a limp, but did say that he wasnt happy with the reaction from the Leafs fans a likely Canadian carryover from the incident in Montreal with Max Pacioretty.
I cant control that, said Chara. Its a little disappointing, but theres nothing I can do about it.
Andrew Ference returned to the Bruins lineup, but he and Adam McQuaid had a tough night while going a combined minus-6. Ference poked a puck from behind Thomas that carried through the crease and set up a Joey Crabb goal in front of the net that helped Torontos avalanche of goals in the second period.
It was par for the course for a group of Bruins defensemen that have been going through a difficult period over the last few weeks and dont look anywhere near the solid Bs defense thats led the NHL in goals against pretty much all season.
One of the things we need to correct is defense. We have bodies back, but for some reason were not picking up players and theyre getting into scoring chances, said Chara. Theyre eventually burying pucks. We have bodies back, but we need to start picking up our men in the defensive zone.
Tyler Seguin led the Bruins with five shots on net the same total Adam McQuaid had as well and logged plenty of power play time in another promising effort for the 19-year-old late in the season.
Adam McQuaids first period goal snapped a 17-game goal-scoring drought for the physical Bruins defenseman.
Nathan Horton engaged in a hockey fight with Dion Phaneuf for the second time this season, and this time skated off the ice with a bloody forehead after getting driven into the frozen sheet by the Leafs defenseman at the end of the bout.
Highly touted Leafs prospect Nazem Kadri scored his first career NHL goal in the first period for Toronto on a shot that appeared to be tipped by Darryl Boyce in front of the Boston net but was never changed by game officials.