Less than 24 hours before the Maple Leafs return to the scene of last May's ill-fated Causeway St. Collapse, it was Toronto fans who wanted to bust out in a rendition of "Thank You Kessel" on Friday night.

But will they be singing a different tune on Saturday evening at the TD Garden, where the Leafs will be playing for the first time since their epic third-period meltdown in Game 7 of their first round series against the Boston Bruins?

However it plays out, Phil Kessel and linemate James van Riemsdyk showed they are ready to battle their Beantown demons after both played huge roles in Toronto's 2-1 shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils at the Air Canada Centre.

Kessel, in particular, turned in one of those Phil-the-Thrill moments that lifted 19,000 butts out of their seats.

With the score deadlocked at 0-0 midway through the third period, Kessel snapped up the puck on his own side of centre, looped back before picking up speed through the neutral zone, split the Devils defence, then finished off the spectacular play by beating goalie Cory Schneider.

In this, the annual Hall of Fame game, Kessel's heroics reminded coach Randy Carlyle of Hall of Famer Frank Mahovlich.

"Those are difference-maker goals," Carlyle said. "Reminded me of Frank Mahovlich - the wind-up to come back inside your own line and attack.

"That is old-time hockey."

Asked if he was familiar with the man nicknamed The Big M, Kessel replied "Not really," causing those in the media scrum surrounding him to bust out into laughter.

Of course, being back in Boston will be no laughing matter for a Leafs team that suffered one of the most gut-wrenching defeats in franchise history six months ago at the "Gahden."

This will, in fact, be the first step in trying to turn the page on that devastating night last spring, one in which the Leafs blew a 4-1 third-period lead en route to a 5-4 overtime loss.

Bruins fans, of course, take great glee in mocking the Leafs' No. 81, often yelling that familiar "Thank You Kessel" chant after his trade to Toronto landed Boston first-round draft picks that resulted in forward Tyler Seguin and defenceman Dougie Hamilton.

After Patrice Bergeron's OT winner ended the Leafs' season, Seguin fell out of favour with Bruins management and was dealt to the Dallas Stars. Somehow, it seems likely that his departure will stop the Boston throng from mocking Kessel.

However it plays out, Kessel, like many of his teammates, is savouring the opportunity to face the Bruins again.

"I thought we had a good series," Kessel said. "It did not end how we wanted it to, but we moved on. We have to go in there and try to get two points, They are a great team.

"We moved past (last spring). It's a new season."

For van Riemsdyk, it's a new position too.

Van Riemsdyk has been forced to play in the middle instead of his normal position on the wing after injuries to Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland left the Leafs thin at centre. Bozak is on IR with a hamstring ailment while Bolland had a tendon severed in the left ankle area by the skate of Vancouver's Zack Kassian last Saturday.