The first-place Boston Bruins weren’t very good defensively in losing their latest game. They’ll try to avoid a third straight defeat when they face the last-place Toronto Maple Leafs, who are coming off a big offensive performance.
The Northeast Division rivals meet at Air Canada Centre for the second time this season as the Bruins finish up a season-high five-game road trip Monday night.
Despite scoring four goals on its first 11 shots, Boston (20-11-6) couldn’t keep up on defense and fell 7-6 in a shootout at Buffalo on Saturday. The Bruins outshot the Sabres 40-35 but blew leads of 3-1 and 4-2 in the first period.
The Bruins have gone 3-0-2 in their past five and lost for just the fourth time (19-1-3) in a game in which they led this season, but were far from satisfied with the outcome.
“It’s not an easy game to watch from behind the bench,” coach Claude Julien said. “At the end, we didn’t handle that well at all.”
Boston allowed its highest goal total since Nov. 14, 2009, and that resulted in its second straight shootout loss after a three-game win streak. The Bruins, who had six players score Saturday, will try to bounce back against the Leafs, who matched a season high for goals their last time out.
Toronto (14-19-4) defeated Ottawa 5-1 on Saturday, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first 15:21 and building the advantage to 5-0 in early in the second period. Tyler Bozak(notes) scored two goals for the Leafs, who had only 21 shots on goal and got 32 saves from James Reimer(notes) in his first NHL start.
“We had a tough couple of losses in our last two games,” Bozak said. “Both games we thought we could have won so it was big for us to come out here and get a lead, and then not sit back but build on that lead.”
Toronto, which averted a third straight defeat after consecutive one-goal losses, has gone 2-5-0 in its last seven.
The Bruins continued to struggle at Air Canada Centre in their first game of the season there Dec. 4, losing 3-2 in a shootout. Thomas made 38 saves but Boston failed to hold a 2-1 third-period lead, with former Bruin Phil Kessel(notes) delivering the decisive goal in the tiebreaker.
The Leafs have gone 3-0-1 in the last four meetings with the Bruins at Toronto. Boston took the first matchup of the season 2-0 on Oct. 28 behind Thomas, who stopped 20 shots.
Thomas is 15-4-4 with a 2.80 goals-against average and two shutouts versus the Leafs.
Kessel has two goals and three assists in his last three games. Teammate Clarke MacArthur(notes) scored against the Senators and has three goals and eight assists in his last 13 contests, while Nikolai Kulemin(notes) has recorded four goals and two assists in his previous seven games.
Milan Lucic(notes) leads Boston with 16 goals, but hasn’t recorded a point in a season-high seven games. The Bruins have been getting production from Patrice Bergeron(notes), who has nine points in his last eight contests.