Do you ever have that one dream, over and over again? You’re walking into the courtyard, the dragon is there, and oh! There it is, you’re on fire! That’s pretty much what it’s felt like to play against the Boston Bruins, ever since the 2013 playoffs, when the Leafs famously blew a 4-1 in game 7 against the Bruins, only to lose 5-4 in overtime. But tonight, that dragon reared it’s head back to spit it’s fiery venom at us, and we ducked, dodged, and slayed the evil beast. I never want to hear “IT WAS 4-1!!!” again.
Things got off to a rather inauspicious start for the Leafs, as just under 3 minutes into the game, Patrice Bergeron carried the puck in over the blue line, and dished to David Pastrnak, who fired it through the five hole of Leafs netminder Freddie Andersen, making it 1-0 Bruins. Or did it. Upon looking at the replay, Pasternak looked to be offsides. Leafs coach Mike Babcock challenged the goal, and the referees reviewed it. Babcock knew Pasternak was offsides, I knew Pasternak was offsides, the blind guy down at the end of the street shining shoes for quarters knew Pasternak was offsides, but the camera on the side of the ice that Pasternak was on, which would have definitively proved he was offsides, was obscured by the linesman standing near the blue line, so the replay was ruled inconclusive, 1-0 Bruins. This was obviously not the start the Leafs were looking for, as they appeared out of sorts, running around and out of position like they had been for the two games prior. Then a funny thing happened. Martin Marincin took a penalty, which would be a theme for the night, and the Leafs had an aggressive, productive, penalty kill. This seemed to settle them down a bit, as the very next shift, Auston Matthews, playing on a line with Nazem Kadri and William Nylander while Zach Hyman and Connor Brown rested up from a successful penalty kill, stole the puck in the neutral zone, zipped a pass to Kadri, who fired a beautiful pass to William Nylander. Nylander took it, cut quickly to his right, and slid the puck past Tuukka Rask into the open cage to tie the game at 1. That would be the score as the first period came to an end. If you thought that was exciting, we were just getting started.
The 2nd period got off to a bit of a slow start, as for the first few minutes, the Bruins were grinding the puck down in the Leafs zone, the Leafs would gain control, ice the puck, and we’d do the whole thing over again. That all changed midway through the 2nd period, when while the Leafs had possession in the Bruins zone, James van Riemsdyk got drilled with a questionable hit. The Bruins gained the puck and tried to carry it out, but turned it over to Mitch Marner, who managed to feed JvR in front of the net, just as he was getting up. JvR made no mistake and buried it past Rask to make it 2-1 Leafs. It would stay that way for about 30 seconds before William Nylander picked up a loose puck and skated down the right wing on a 2 on 1 with Leo Komarov. Nylander decided to shoot, and it proved to be the right choice as he fired a laser past Rask for his 2nd of the game, making it 3-1 Leafs. Seconds later Boston would take a penalty for a hit on Matt Martin. On the ensuing power play Nylander fanned on a chance for his 1st career hat trick once, but not the 2nd time, taking a Connor Brown pass and drilling it past Rask to give the Leafs a 4-1 lead in Boston as the hats rained down. Well, there were a couple of them. A 4-1 lead in Boston? Is it hot in here to anyone else? Is that dragon breath I smell? About a minute later Pasternak would score his 2nd of the game, as he pounced on a deflection of a Zdeno Chara shot by Patrice Bergeron that gave Andersen fits, cutting the Leafs lead to 2. Minutes later Tyler Bozak took a penalty behind the Leafs net for interference. While the penalty kill got the Leafs rolling in the 1st, this one was nowhere near as successful, as the Leafs were hemmed in their own zone for about a minute and a half, pucks that were getting out of the zone earlier in the game were being kept in at the line, Boston was in the exact right place, and still it looked like the Leafs were going to get away with it, until Pasternak broke his stick on a one timer attempt. He skated to the bench for a new stick, which put him in the exact right place to turn the puck back towards the Leafs net when Zach Hyman decided to try to skate it out, instead of firing it down the ice for a line change. Pastenak’s good fortune ended up on the stick of Torey Krug, who backed off Marincin, and snapped the puck past Andersen to make it 4-3. OK, I know it’s getting hot in here now. What was that noise? Guys, I’m pretty sure that’s definitely a dragon! The period would end without the Leafs getting scorched, still clinging to a 4-3 lead.
The Leafs would duck and dodge fireballs for the first 10 minutes of the 3rd period, until, after the 4th line got hemmed in the Leafs zone for an extended shift, Morgan Rielly was unable to box out Ryan Spooner’s stick, and Spooner was able to score to tie the game at 4. It was a direct hit and and it looked like the Leafs would eventually succumb to the dragon again, until Auston Matthews managed to hit Zach Hyman with a pass, Hyman passed it through the middle of the ice, where it deflected off of Chara, right onto the stick of Connor Brown, who absolutely buried it past Zane McIntyre, who had replaced Rask after the 4th Leafs goal to make it 5-4 Leafs, with less than 5 minutes remaining. It appeared that would be the blow that would finally fell the dragon. Never again would we have to hear about blowing a 4-1 lead again, it was a euphoric feeling. For about 2 minutes. Leo Komarov was called for interference, a call that could generously be called questionable. It looked a lot more like David Pastrnak was trying out for the Czech national diving team. Mike Babcock was livid on the Leafs bench, but it didn’t matter as the Leafs were tasked with killing off another penalty late in the 3rd period, and the dragon roared to life as Patrice Bergeron buried a loose puck past Andersen. It looked for all the world like we’d have to slay the beast another day, until approximately 1:18 later when JvR took a feed from Tyler Bozak as the Leafs were cycling in the Bruins zone, and somehow it found it’s way past MacIntyre. The temperature returned to normal as the seconds ticked away and the dragon didn’t rise again.
The Leafs hung on to win 6-5 and close to within a point of Boston for the 3rd and final guaranteed playoff berth in the Atlantic Division, with 5 games in hand. They’ll be in action Monday night in Brooklyn as they take on the New York Islanders.
Boston Goal 2:17 D. Pastrnak (21) assisted by P. Bergeron and Z. Chara
Toronto Goal 11:15 W. Nylander (11) assisted by N. Kadri and A. Matthews
Toronto Goal 8:31 J. van Riemsdyk (18) assisted by M. Marner
Toronto Goal 9:09 W. Nylander (12)
Toronto Goal 10:17 W. Nylander (13) (power play) assisted by C. Brown and A. Matthews
Boston Goal 10:55 D. Pastrnak (22) assisted by P. Bergeron and Z. Chara
Boston Goal 15:53 T. Krug (5) (power play) assisted by D. Pastrnak and R. Spooner
Boston Goal 10:06 R. Spooner (8) assisted by Z. Chara and D. Moore
Toronto Goal 15:15 C. Brown (12) assisted by Z. Hyman and A. Matthews
Boston Goal 17:06 P. Bergeron (13) (power play) assisted by T. Krug and B. Marchand
Toronto Goal 18:24 J. van Riemsdyk (19) assisted by T. Bozak and M. Marner
SHOTS ON GOAL
MIKE BABCOCK POST GAME
MAPLE LEAFS GAME IN SIX