Maple Leafs 5, Bruins 2
For one strange night, the signs of progress for the Toronto Maple Leafs were impossible to miss.
Luke Schenn went end to end for a goal, and Nazem Kadri scored for the first time in his NHL career. There were offensive contributions from grinders and, perhaps most importantly, another solid effort from rookie goalie James Reimer.
It added up to a comfortable 5-2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.
''Good teams, they get contributions all the way up and down the lineup,'' said Maple Leafs forward Joey Crabb, who had a career night with a goal and two assists.
Toronto isn't yet a good team, at least not on a consistent basis. But the victory lifted the Maple Leafs to 74 points - good enough to match their total from last season with nine games left in the regular season.
For all of the ups and downs, this season has clearly been a step forward from that season.
They still have a chance to hope for an unlikely playoff run, although time is quickly running out. The Maple Leafs are four points back of eighth-place Buffalo and have played two more games than the Sabres.
''It's not over until it's over,'' said Reimer, who finished with 35 saves. ''We've just got to keep winning, keep taking care of our business. ... All we can do is play our best and hope it's good enough.''
All of Toronto's offense came from players with fewer than five goals this season. The goal scorers have combined for just 13.
''The third and fourth lines were really good,'' Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. ''The (Mikhail) Grabovski and (Tyler) Bozak lines kind of struggled at times, and those guys were on their game.''
Adam McQuaid and Dan Paille had goals for Northeast Division-leading Boston, 1-3-3 in its past seven games.
It was the first trip back to Toronto for Tomas Kaberle since the defenseman was dealt to Boston on Feb. 18. He played the first 878 games of his NHL career with the Maple Leafs - leaving him eighth on the franchise list. He admitted before the game he had ''mixed feelings'' about his return.
A video tribute during the first period earned Kaberle a standing ovation, and he acknowledged the fans with a couple waves. Otherwise, it was a night for him to forget.
''I never thought it was going to be this tough,'' Kaberle said. ''Not only on the ice, but you've got a lot of friends watching. A lot of things run through your head. I'm kind of glad it's over.''
Schenn opened the scoring at 9:44 of the first period. With Bobby Orr watching from a private box, the stay-at-home defenseman went end to end and beat Tim Thomas with a high wrist shot for his fourth goal.
''I don't expect to score too many more like that,'' Schenn said.
McQuaid tied it 1-1 just over two minutes later when his shot from the corner deflected off Dion Phaneuf's skate and past James Reimer.
Less than a minute after McQuaid's goal, Kadri floated a long wrist shot that banked off McQuaid and eluded Thomas. The play was reviewed, and the 20-year-old Kadri wasn't sure if he would be given credit for scoring.
He expects his story of the goal will change over time.
''I'll probably say I walked (around) a few guys and went backhand shelf,'' Kadri said. ''That's not the case.''
Toronto blew the game open in the second period shortly after Reimer denied Tyler Seguin on a clear breakaway. Crabb and Brown scored 39 seconds apart to make it 4-1 for the Maple Leafs and chase Thomas from the net.
Reimer was solid after being given the night off Thursday when Toronto lost 4-0 at Florida.
''You look at their lineup and you're going, 'Holy cow there's no holes here,''' Wilson said of the Bruins. ''Any one of their lines is capable of being dangerous. James made three or four great saves.
''The big save was the breakaway in the second period.''
Tuukka Rask was sent in as a replacement, but he allowed a wrist shot from Aulie to beat him at 17:23. He watched the third period from the bench after Thomas came back in.
Paille scored with less than 20 seconds remaining.
Notes: Toronto matched last season's total of 74 points. ... The Bruins are 7-3-3 since acquiring Kaberle. ... Kadri has played in 21 NHL games. ... Maple Leafs tough guy Colton Orr skated on Saturday morning. He hasn't played since sustaining a concussion in a fight on Jan. 20.