If the Detroit Red Wings showed on Wednesday why they would be a bad playoff matchup for the Bruins, Thursday’s contest with Toronto gave Bruins fans a little more hope for an easier path in the playoffs, despite losing to the Maple Leafs.
It would be difficult to top last year’s first round series between these two clubs, in which the Bruins almost blew a 3-1 series lead, then completed an epic third period comeback in Game 7 to win in overtime.
On Thursday, the Maple Leafs struck first six minutes in, when Paul Ranger slapped a backhand shot behind Chad Johnson to give Toronto the early lead. The Bruins answered just 56 seconds later, when Patrice Bergeron’s pressure on the Leafs defense led to a turnover that put the puck on Brad Marchand’s stick, who fired a shot past Bernier to tie the game.
Lady Luck got the Leafs back in front before the horn sounded on the first period, as Phil Kessel threw a puck on goal that bounced off of Tyler Bozak and behind Johnson to give Toronto their one goal lead back with 12 seconds to play in the period.
The Bruins started the second period as ugly as they ended the first, with a bad turnover on defense that led to a James van Riemsdyk score less than a minute into the period, making it 3-1 Leafs. The Bruins couldn’t get any offense going the rest of the period.
Whatever the Bruins talked about during the second intermission, it must have worked, because they came out firing in the third period. The first line of Lucic, David Krejci, and Jarome Iginla spent a great deal of time in the Leafs end, ultimately resulting in Lucic’s 22d goal of the season to cut the deficit to one.
The Bruins third period dominance was shown in the fact that it took Toronto over half the period to register their first shot on goal. The Bruins kept the tempo going and tied the game up with 7:09 to play, with Marchand working his way around the back of the Leafs’ net, finding Bergeron in the slot, who buried his 28th of the year. Bergeron also extended his point streak to 10 games, tallying nine goals and five assists in that span.
The Bruins got a chance to win the game in regulation when the Leafs’ Nikolai Luelman held Milan Lucic as the Bruins forward burst into the Leafs zone on a break. The Bruins couldn’t convert, however, and the game went to overtime. But the Bruins successfully gained at least a point thanks to outshooting the Leafs 17-5 in the third period.
Overtime wasn't as kind with a questionable holding call on Torey Krug that gave the Leafs a power play. Toronto's Nazem Kadri would bury his own rebound to keep Toronto’s playoff hopes alive.
While the loss may be frustrating, the third period comeback to give the Bruins at least a point has to be a step in the right direction, fighting all the way to the end against a desperate team that needed this win a lot more than the Bruins did.
The Maple Leafs live to fight another day, and if their road ultimately leads back to Boston for the first round of the playoffs, it should be quite a show.