The Toronto Maple Leafs‘ new coach put his team through two lengthy practices after taking over for Ron Wilson, but they met a familiar fate against the Boston Bruins — losing 5-4 in Carlyle’s home debut Tuesday night.
“You’ve got enough goals to win the hockey game,” Carlyle said. “It’s the defensive aspect of it that needs to be improved upon. … Tonight was just another indication of the amount work that’s necessary on the defensive side of (the game) and the compete side of it and 1-on-1 battles side of it.
“Really if we demonstrated the will that was out there in the third period for 60 minutes, that was what was required. That was my message.”
Jordan Caron and Tyler Seguin scored two goals each and Boston beat Toronto for the fifth time this season while outscoring the Leafs 28-10. Chris Kelly also scored and Tim Thomas stopped 25 shots to help Boston end two-game skid.
“We worked hard tonight,” Thomas said.
“We had lots of positives in the hockey game,” Carlyle said. “Any time you score four goals you should feel good about your offensive side of it. But defense wins at this time of year.”
Carlyle won his Maple Leafs debut at Montreal on Saturday after replacing the fired Wilson the previous night.
Toronto played more than half the game with a short bench after losing forwards Joffrey Lupul and Colby Armstrong early in the second period. Lupul appeared to suffer a wrist injury after taking a check from David Krejci while Armstrong was bloodied in a fight with Dennis Seidenberg. Neither is expected to play when the Leafs visit Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
Jonas Gustavsson stood very little chance in the Toronto net as Boston score all but one of its goals from the edge of his crease. The other, Seguin’s second of the night, came on a beautiful one-timer from the right circle.
“If you look where the goals were scored from, those weren’t tough enough areas from a defending standpoint for our hockey club,” Carlyle said. “I think that we hung the goaltender out to dry in too many situations.”
The middle period offered a glimpse of the tougher brand of hockey the Leafs are expected to play under Carlyle, resulting in three fights.
“To me, that’s the way the game’s supposed to be played,” Carlyle said. “It’s supposed to be aggressive, it’s supposed to be hard-hitting. If the fighting does occur, then so be it.”
However, it also cost Toronto the game.
Boston scored four goals in two flurries — one pair coming 41 seconds apart and the other 35 seconds apart — as the Leafs slipped into some of their old habits.
After Liles put Toronto ahead 2-1 with a power-play goal 57 seconds into the period, Boston quickly scored twice. Seguin tipped Zdeno Chara‘s shot in at 2:02, and Kelly scored on a rebound past Jonas Gustavsson, who was bumped out of position by a hard-charging Caron, at 2:43.
A 5-on-3 power play allowed the Leafs to tie it, with Kessel getting his 33rd of the season at 9:52. However, Boston’s second flurry put them ahead 5-3 as Caron tapped home a pass from Chara at 13:34 and Seguin converted a one-timer at 14:09.
“We’ve got to tighten it up defensively,” Toronto forward Tim Connolly said. “I like the system in place (from Carlyle). Obviously, his record in the league shows that the system works, so we’ve just got to execute.”
Grabovski pulled the Leafs within one as he went in alone and beat Thomas at 13:13, but Toronto Leafs couldn’t tie it again despite getting a two-minute power play late.
“We’re working to get used to the style that he wants to play and the system,” Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said. “I think as a group we’ve grasped it pretty good in a very short time, the little subtle changes that we have made, and we’re going to have to keep working at it.”
Gunnarsson opened the scoring by beating Thomas high with shot at 3:01 of the first period.
Caron tied it with 6:02 to go in the period.
Boston last won consecutive games on Jan. 10th and 12th. … The Leafs scratched Joey Crabb, Mike Brown and Cody Franson. … Lane MacDermid, son of former NHL player Paul MacDermid, played his second career game for Boston. … Grabovski signed a five-year, $27.5 million extension earlier in the day. … The announced attendance was 19,684.