BOSTON – For most of the last four years it has been an unfair fight here at the T.D. Garden, sort of like Marvin Hagler against the likes of Fulgencio Obelmejias in the old Boston Garden.
The mighty and rugged Boston Bruins have represented Hagler, of course, and Phil Kessel, imitating the punching bag, a k a Obelmejias.
Kessel, one of the most skilled playmakers in the world of hockey, has been rendered useless when going against his former team, particularly here in Boston.
Kessel’s Kryptonite? The 6-foot-9, 260-pound Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara. When Kessel is on the ice, Chara is, too. That’s on purpose.
When Kessel, the leader Maple Leafs scorer the last four regular seasons (including this one), has gone against the B’s, it’s been a bunch of zeros and minuses.
Heading into last night’s game, Kessel had accumulated three goals and six assists in 23 games versus his old club. He was also a minus-21, which means he was on the ice for 21 more Bruins goals than he was for Leafs goals when the teams were playing five-on-five.
In other words, he stunk on offense and he really stunk on defense.
Even worse, in 12 games in Boston he had two power play goals and zero assists.
Well, something happened about 50 seconds into the third period of Game 2 last night. Chara whacked a slap shot from the point, which was blocked by Leafs forward Ryan Hamilton.
Kessel took a chance as Hamilton blocked it. He took off.
Center Nazem Kadri immediately snared the loose puck and saw Kessel take off. He passed it about 100 feet to the streaking Kessel, who broke in alone and snapped it through Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask’s legs.
It put the Leafs ahead, 3-1, and turned out being the play of the night and one of the biggest goals of Kessel’s career. In Boston.