The Bruins had gone more than two months without a gut-busting laugher. On Jan. 5, they booted the Flames out of TD Garden nursing a 9-0 beating.
On Monday at the Garden, another Canadian club finally felt the Bruins’ wrath. The Bruins laid an 8-0 thrashing on the Maple Leafs to cap a six-game season sweep of their division rivals.
The ferocity of the beatdown was captured in a second-period fight between old combatants Milan Lucic and Mike Komisarek. After trading jousts along the boards, Lucic and Komisarek - they had tangled repeatedly when the defenseman was in Montreal - shed the gloves. Lucic ravaged Komisarek with several ringing uppercuts to send the following message: goodbye and good riddance.
“It seems like so long ago,’’ Lucic said of his previous scraps with Komisarek. “He’s a guy who’s definitely going to compete. He’s just trying to show some emotion at a time like that. You don’t ever like to be on the other end of things. Whatever happened, happened there. Fortunately for me, I came out on top.’’
Benoit Pouliot scored twice. Brian Rolston (goal, three assists) led the Bruins with four points. Nobody had more than 21:50 of ice time (Johnny Boychuk was the leader). Tim Thomas laughed off a mere 13 shots to notch his fifth shutout of 2011-12.
“I have to be ready for whatever, so I wasn’t even thinking about the workload side,’’ said Thomas, who should get at least one breather during the upcoming road trip. “I started to feel better against Philadelphia. I think you could see it in my play. I felt good in practice this morning. I just wanted to carry it over, no matter what kind of shots I had. With the way the team played tonight in front of me and being able to get away with a zero will help me continue moving forward.’’
The Bruins could have used a cupcake. They were coming off a hard-fought, 3-2 shootout win over Philadelphia Saturday. They will depart from Hanscom Field in Bedford Wednesday morning to kick off a three-game California trip, their longest remaining road swing of the regular season.
They got a patsy in the Leafs. Toronto came out with JV goaltending and a roster full of skaters that offered zero resistance. Toronto coach Randy Carlyle had to pull starter James Reimer (five saves on nine shots) after the Bruins poured in four first-period goals.
But the relief netminder didn’t have much, either. The Bruins ripped three pucks past Jonas Gustavsson (Pouliot, Zdeno Chara, Rolston) in the second period, then added one more in the third when Tyler Seguin scored with 1:31 remaining.
“We really looked at this as more of a statement game for us because we’ve been struggling,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “We had to come out with the kind of effort we had the game before, which is something we haven’t done very much in a long time.’’
Gustavsson stopped only 11 of 15 shots. If the Leafs hope to end their playoff drought next season, a goaltending upgrade will be general manager Brian Burke’s No. 1 priority.
The Bruins are 3 points ahead of Ottawa in the race for the Northeast Division title and a second- or third-place berth in the conference. Less than a week ago, the Senators pulled ahead of the Bruins, who had tumbled into seventh place.
“Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that Ottawa did pass us,’’ Lucic said. “Maybe there was that little fire that needed to be re-lit. We’ve got to keep it going from here on in.’’
Neither Reimer nor Gustavsson could bail out their boys with a timely save. But as leaky as the Toronto puckstoppers were on Monday, the players in front of them were just as porous. The Bruins dominated play in every zone, controlled the puck, and gave Thomas one of the easiest shutouts of his career. For every punch the Bruins threw, the Leafs had nothing in return.
“It was embarrassing,’’ Komisarek said. “No excuse. It’s unacceptable to come out like that. We start off the game playing at the end of our sticks, not winning battles. Yeah, we’ve won a couple games here. But you can’t expect to just throw out your sticks and win a game against a good team like that. Definitely unacceptable for us.’’
For the second game in a row, the Bruins struck first. In the opening period, the No. 3 line beat Reimer twice. Chris Kelly kicked off the barrage with a blanketing forecheck down the boards. Luke Schenn gave away the puck under Kelly’s assault. An instant later, Pouliot fed Kelly for a goal-mouth tuck-in at 2:25.
At 5:40, Gregory Campbell caught Reimer leaning the wrong way and swiped in a wraparound shot. At 10:58, Pouliot tipped a Boychuk shot over Reimer’s glove. Brad Marchand ended Reimer’s night at 12:42. After taking a cross-ice pass from Seguin on the power play, Marchand snapped a shot over Reimer’s glove, prompting Carlyle to hook his starter.
“The fact that we jumped on them early and got that big lead probably did the same thing it did to us on that last road trip,’’ said Julien. “It just kind of pushes you right out of the game. It’s tough to get back in. What we tried to do was just stay focused for 60 minutes, continue to do the good things, and not let the score dictate our game.’’