Maple Leafs Beat Bruins 4-2 on Home Ice; Pull Within a Win of Evening the Series

Toronto (4) Boston (2) Final — BOS leads series 2-1

By: Gordon Brown

Monday, April 16, 2018

Monday marked Game 3 between the Leafs and Bruins as the series shifted to Ontario’s capital, with Boston commanding a 2-0 series lead on the back of an exuberant home-stand—which saw back-to-back blowout victories by score’s of 5-1 and 7-3, respectively. 

Toronto was desperate to earn their first win to erase any doubts and avoid going down 3-0, risking the threat of a possible sweep scenario on Thursday.

The Bruins’ top line of Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak have simply been on a tear while matching up against Auston Matthews and company, however, that was subject to change with Mike Babcock determining the final line change on home ice. 

Boston’s deadly trio had collaborated for an overwhelming 20-points to begin the series, with no answer in sight from the Maple Leafs. 

On Saturday, David Pastrnak, at 21 years and 324 days old, even broke an NHL record as the youngest player to record at least six points in a playoff game, previously held by Wayne Gretzky, which had stood since 1983 when The Great One was 22 years and 81 days old.

Meanwhile, the Matthews line also featuring Zach Hyman and William Nylander entered the night with a grand total of two combined points—1 goal and 1 assist, each courtesy of Hyman. 

Not exactly an ideal start for the team’s top unit… 

When asked about this on Saturday, Matthews responded bluntly with, “Shit happens, I guess…it’s hockey, we gotta rebound for Game 3.”

It is a best-of-seven series, after all. 

Nazem Kadri would be serving the second of a three-game suspension after his absence proved problematic for Toronto’s centre depth in Game 2.  

Subsequently, Mike Babcock reverted to his line-blender and made a few significant changes prior to game time, highlighted by C Tomas Plekanec’s promotion to the second line in between Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner. Their assignment: The deadly Marchand - Bergeron - Pastrnak trio. 

The experienced veteran had seen a highly decreased role since arriving in Toronto via trade from Montreal and was eager to take advantage of the opportunity to play with a pair of extremely talented teammates. His jump from an average 10:53 time on ice throughout Games 1 and 2, to 17:58 was quite the hike but did not seem to phase the 35-year-old. 

It was a bold move by Toronto’s bench boss, Mike Babcock, which proved to be an effective tactic after all.

As the action got underway, the boys in blue had a noticeable jump in their step and seemingly had an edge in possession, as demonstrated by a 56.41 CF% and a 14-7 advantage in generated scoring chances by the opening period’s end. 

Riley Nash, who was making his series debut, took a costly delay of game penalty and allowed the Maple Leafs to take a 1-0 lead with 2:45 remaining in the opening frame. It took all but 0:07 seconds for James van Riemsdyk to record his second goal of the playoffs following a 36-goal regular season campaign, resulting from a scramble in front of the net—which happens to be his favourite place to score.

Frederik Andersen appeared to have bounced back from a performance that saw 3 goals allowed on just 5 shots before he was replaced by Curtis McElhinney early in Game 2.

Boston managed to find an equalizer come the second period, courtesy of a point-shot from Adam McQuaid, but Toronto restored their one-goal advantage just 0:55 seconds later. 

A two-line stretch pass saw Morgan Rielly connect with Mitch Marner, who immediately had Patrick Marleau at his side for a two-on-none opportunity in the Bruins’ zone with several back-checkers on their tail. Marner would enter the zone and utilize his patience to wait out Tuukka Rask before feeding Marleau for a one-timer past the Bruins’ net-minder. 

His first goal of the post-season also makes him the oldest Maple Leaf to score a playoff goal at 37 years of age.

The fast-paced action did not stop there, as Zdeno Chara stunned the home crowd with short angle snipe which had little room for error in order to beat Frederik Andersen upstairs. At first glance, it appeared unlikely but Chara somehow found daylight and punished the Leafs with a vintage expression of his skill.  

With the tally, he also became the oldest Bruins defenceman to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Rest assured, the Maple Leafs would come back to take a 3-2 lead into the second intermission. Auston Matthews helped put his team back on top with a traumatizing wrist shot against Rask, who had next-to-no chance of stopping it after a quick set-up by William Nylander. 

It happened to be the first point’s of the series for either player and signalled a huge sense of relief in Leafs Nation.

A tight-knit third period would follow until the home team managed to break the game open with a late goal in regulation time to take a 4-2 lead. The promotion of Tomas Plekanec continued to pay dividends as he helped send Patrick Marleau in on a two-on-one break with Mitch Marner—to which he made no mistake and recorded his second goal of the night. 

The Air Canada Centre was sent into a frenzy with their team ahead with a healthy two-goal lead, shifting the pressure on Boston to attempt a comeback.

Of course, Frederik Andersen went on to make a diving save and denied David Pastrnak with the paddle of his stick, in mid-air nonetheless, towards the end of regulation time. The ridiculous save was shown inside the arena during a stoppage in play and deservedly received praise and recognition from the sold-out crowd.

Boston continued to press but proved unable to penetrate the wall that is Frederik Andersen, meaning the Maple Leafs would walk away with a 4-2 victory to pull within a game of evening the series. Although they still trail 2-1, Toronto is in a much more favourable position than they were entering the evening. 

Frederik Andersen's 40 saves on 42 shots (.952 SV%) earned himself 1st Star of the night honours in front of the Maple Leafs faithful. I think it's safe to say Saturday night's blunder of a performance is behind him.

Momentum can change at any moment, is it possible the tide has shifted in favour of Toronto?

Game 4 goes on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. EST—be prepared for an explosive affair between two motivated rivals.

Feel free to drop me a comment or suggestion:

E-mail - gordon@BarnBurner.ca 

On Twitter - @GordBrown_ 

Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs