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Five from afar: Leafs 3, Bruins 2 (SO)

Saturday night’s Northeast Division tilt between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs had the recipe for a hard-fought game. Unfortunately for Bruins fans, there was only one player on their team fighting hard at Air Canada Centre, as the Maple Leafs completely outplayed the Bruins but had to tie the score at 2-2 in the last minute -- thanks to another masterpiece by Bruins goalie Tim Thomas -- and then win 3-2 on a Phil Kessel goal in the shootout.

1. Thomas earns team another point. Tim Thomas is clearly the team MVP right now, and while he’s a strong candidate for the Vezina Trophy, an argument could be made for the Hart Trophy, as well. The Bruins once again had a lackluster start, but as he has so many times this season, Thomas saved the day for his team by keeping them in the game and in position to win. Thomas made 38 saves Saturday night, including a momentum-saver stop on Phil Kessel in the opening minutes, a glove save on Leafs forward Nikolai Kulemin in the second period and a huge, sprawling glove save on a Francois Beauchemin shot early in overtime to keep the game tied at two. But Thomas is human, after all, and allowed two goals on three shots in the shootout. This was his first loss on the road this season to put him at 9-0-1 in enemy territory.

2. Seguin shines in return home. The Bruins didn’t cancel their media availability after the morning skate Saturday simply because they didn’t feel like talking. The pregame hype surrounding Tyler Seguin’s return home for the first time as an NHLer was huge news in Toronto. Not only because the Brampton, Ontario native was coming back to play the team he grew up cheering for, but also because Seguin would’ve been drafted by his hometown team if not for the trade that gave the Bruins the second overall pick at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for Phil Kessel. Sheltering the 18-year-old rookie from a media maelstrom proved to be the right move, as Seguin played a solid game, notching an assist on Gregory Campbell’s third-period goal and then a goal in the shootout.

3. Kessel answers the bell. Phil Kessel knew he had something to prove with the Seguin hype leading into this game, and to his credit, Kessel came out flying. If not for a brilliant save by Tim Thomas on Kessel's early scoring chance on the first period, Kessel would’ve given the Leafs a huge momentum boost with an early 1-0 lead. Kessel -- who was playing center for the first time as a Leaf -- stuck with it, though, and his brilliant work in the faceoff circle led to the game-tying goal with 42 seconds left in regulation and then the former Bruin scored the game-winner in the shootout. Kessel gets a lot of grief for playing without passion but he picked it up when it counted Saturday night.

4. Yucky start for Bruins. While they scored the first goal for the third straight game, the Bruins were still very sloppy. If not for some amazing goaltending from Tim Thomas again, the Bruins could’ve easily come out of the opening frame losing instead of tied at one. The Bruins were outshot 12-5 and outchanced 8-3 in the first period. When asked during the intermission by CBC’s Elliotte Friedman to describe the first period, Bruins coach Claude Julien said, “Yuck”. He’s right, and bad first periods are still a habit this team needs to break urgently.

5. Horton finally finds the twine. After scoring six goals in his first 10 games as a Bruin, Nathan Horton basically hit a wall; heading into Saturday night’s game, Horton had gone nine games without a goal. As Claude Julien has pointed out numerous times in the past week, Horton’s scoring slump hasn’t been for lack of effort, as the winger has been hustling and getting chances. On Saturday, Horton was rewarded for his hard work when he stole the puck and rifled one past Leafs goalie J.S. Giguere. Horton has struggled with frustration and confidence issues in the past and he should be credited for sticking with it during this recent goal-less streak.