We should know by now that the Bruins never, ever do it the easy way. They rarely get the job done in five games. It’s usually seven.
And so the Bruins must return to Toronto to give the emboldened Maple Leafs another shot Sunday night.
With a chance to close out the desperate Leafs, the Bruins dropped a 2-1, Game 5 decision on Causeway Street Friday night and now must go back across the border before they can advance to the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Careful, B’s. The Maple Leafs are to the NHL what the Red Sox were to the American League before 2004. They are an Original Six team in a hockey-crazed town and they haven’t won a Cup since the Dave Keon team of 1967. When you get ahead of them, three games to one, it’s a good idea to put them away. The Bruins couldn’t do that and you know the good folks of Toronto will go all Kevin Millar on us. They’ve got Phil (rhymes with Schill) Kessel in Game 6 and anything can happen in Game 7.
“Every once in a while the hockey gods will take care of people who deserve it,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien, who was unhappy his team lacked urgency and execution for the first half of Game 5. “This is something we have to take the blame for. It’s our own doing.’’
There really hasn’t been that much difference between these teams in the first five games. The Bruins looked way better in Game 1, faltered at home in Game 2, then took a pair in Toronto to take a commanding lead in the series. That figured to break the spirit of the long-suffering Leafs, but it did not. And now all those ticket-less Toronto fans have new reason to believe as they assemble outside the Air Canada Centre Sunday night. Game 7 will be Monday at the Garden if the Bruins fail to get the job done again.
We all knew it would be hard to improve on the blood-and-thunder hockey we saw in Game 4 at the ACC in Toronto. That was probably the best wall-to-wall hockey game involving the Bruins since Game 7 of the 2011 conference finals against Tampa Bay (a 1-0 Bruins win that featured zero penalties).
In this spirit, Bruins fans had a bounce in their step as they maneuvered through the traffic outside Causeway Street in the minutes before the Bruins took the ice with a chance to close out the desperate Leafs.
Oddly, the irrelevant Blue Jays were playing at Fenway just a few miles down Storrow Drive and we waited breathlessly to see if any Toronto broadcasters would dish about Jon Lester, sunscreen, and cheating.
The Leafs dominated the first period — a trend going back to the third period of Game 3 in Toronto. The visitors outshot the Bruins, 19-8, in the first 20 minutes and this was not one of those misleading stats. The work of Boston goalie Tuukka Rask prevented the Bruins from falling into a 3-0 hole. It made one wonder if Tim Thomas (tin foil on his head) was watching this series from his survivalist bunker somewhere in Colorado.
Midway through the second, the Bruins had their first power play of the night when James van Riemsdyk (more fun to watch than any player in this series) went off for interference. A minute and a half into the advantage, Toronto winger Tyler Bozak picked the pocket of Andrew Ference and went in alone, beating Rask for the first goal of the game.
The Leafs went out to a 2-0 lead when Johnny Boychuk made a lazy pass to Nathan Horton and Horton failed to rush to the puck. Someone left the cake out in the rain. The result was Clarke MacArthur intercepting the puck and rushing in on Rask for a nifty backhand score.
Just after the middle of the third, Zdeno Chara took a perfect behind-the-net pass from David Krejci and fired it past James Reimer top shelf, left corner, to cut the margin to 2-1 and bring some life to the new/old barn. This meant we were going to get into an intense, empty-net situation in the final seconds.
There was additional excitement when the Leafs were tagged with a delay-of-game penalty with 3:48 remaining. Cue the Dropkick Murphys. Unfortunately, the Leafs effectively killed the penalty. Julien called time with 1:11 left and emptied his net. The Bruins best chance came in the closing seconds when Reimer deflected a Jaromir Jagr wrist shot into the crowd. After Toronto called time, the Bruins pressed, but Reimer turned them back and it was back to Customs for both teams.
“We played good in the second half of the game,’’ said Rask, who was goalie when the Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead to the Flyers three years ago. “We have to take that with us and start the game up there like we finished here. We have to learn from it.’’
The Bruins would do well to end it Sunday. You know what Millar says. Anything can happen in a Game 7.