TORONTO - Even as Toronto Maple Leafs players tried to forget a humiliating loss to the Boston Bruins, coaches reminded them just how bad it was. Randy Carlyle wanted to stimulate their memories about how embarrassed they were.
It worked. On Wednesday night the Maple Leafs turned the tables and embarrassed the Bruins in a 6-1 blowout at Air Canada Centre.
"The last game that we played against them, there was a lot of emotion and a lot of frustration," Carlyle said. "Our group, it was time to say: 'Hey, enough's enough. This isn't cutting it. We have to change the way we're approaching things.' And that's coaching included. That was enough."
Toronto improved to 6-1-1 since that 4-1 loss Oct. 25. The Leafs (9-5-2) even moved past the Bruins (10-7-0) in the Atlantic Division standings by walloping them in the rematch.
Phil Kessel torched his former team with two goals to get to 10 on the season. He helped chase Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Tuukka Rask, who got the hook after surrendering four goals on 16 shots.
"You know what, I haven't scored many goals on him," Kessel said. "Tonight I was a little fortunate to get a couple past him. I don't know."
Morgan Rielly, Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk and Peter Holland each scored a goal apiece. Jonathan Bernier was solid in making 25 saves despite not being tested much.
It was one of the Leafs' better efforts of the season, and some of the motivation for it was borne out of how they felt last month.
"I think we really felt liked we owed Boston one," said Holland, who scored his third goal in as many games. "Last time they were in here, we felt a little embarrassed about our effort. We wanted to make sure we came out strong, and obviously a couple quick goals in the second put them back on their heels and we were just able to maintain that momentum throughout."
Kessel scored his first goal 6:46 into the first period and then 18 seconds into the second. It was clear from the get-go the Bruins wouldn't have much of a response.
Boston coach Claude Julien said his team was "just terrible all around."
"We just stunk the joint out," Julien said. "We got a game (Thursday night in Montreal). You certainly can't cut down your bench when you play the next night, and even if I did, I don't think I would've been able to put anybody out there that deserved to be out there."
Centre Chris Kelly said, "the only thing we did as a team: we all played poorly."
After Rask gave way to backup Niklas Svedberg, Julien said he wasn't even thinking about his goaltending decision for the second half of this back-to-back at the rival Canadiens.
This was rivalry night on U.S. television, and the Leafs were into it from the start. After allowing goals within the first three minutes in their past three, Carlyle called this his team's best start of the season.
"We were on the puck and we were skating and we were directing pucks at the net," Carlyle said. "Phil's goal was a big goal early, and then we started out the second period the same way: we scored early."
The goals piled up in the second period, and the Leafs finished with three power-play goals. Bernier wasn't busy at the other end, allowing only one goal to Dennis Seidenberg.
Bernier, who was yanked in the previous Boston game, could easily recall his feelings from that night.
"You get down 4-0 in your own building and get booed, it's not a great feeling," Bernier said. "That was something tonight we had to come out hard right off the bat and give it to them."
Van Riemsdyk said he and his teammates couldn't get too high after this victory, seeing as it's just one of 82 and some measure of redemption. Carlyle tempered his excitement based on the Leafs' next opponent.
"We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves," Carlyle said. "Sure, we feel good about ourselves right now, but who's coming on Friday?"
That would be Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Notes — Leafs defenceman Stephane Robidas was playing in his 900th NHL game. Robidas left the game briefly in the first period after blocking a shot but did not miss much time. ... With an assist on Kessel's first goal, Cody Franson extended his point streak to five games. ... Bruins centre David Krejci missed his second straight game and fourth in the past five with an undisclosed injury. Krejci did not travel with the team, so he also isn't expected to play Thursday night in Montreal ... Bruins defenceman Matt Bartkowski was a healthy scratch for the sixth straight game.
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