The Bruins overwhelmed the Maple Leafs. They launched wave after wave of forechecking fire on the backtracking Leafs. They ripped consecutive pucks on James Reimer. Their skates buzzed as they won just about every race for the puck.
But this was in the last 10 minutes of Game 5, when the Leafs were clutching to a 2-0 lead. When there was no score, those legs were nowhere to be found.
The Bruins came close to tying Game 5 at TD Garden. But the Leafs scratched out a 2-1 win before 17,565 to send the series back to Toronto. The Bruins lead the series, 3-2.
Game 6 is at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Air Canada Centre. It is a building the Bruins did not want to see again this season.
“We knew they were going to come out really hard,” Brad Marchand said. “We didn’t counter that. They really took it to us for the first two periods. We didn’t get a whole lot going. We played a lot better in the last 10 minutes of the third. But it wasn’t enough.”
The Bruins executed everything correctly on their only goal, which took place at 11:12 of the third period. The power line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton cycled the puck in the offensive zone for nearly 90 seconds. They forechecked aggressively to keep the play alive. They turned the legs of Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson into overcooked noodles because of the length of the shift.
Then when Mikhail Grabovski tried to settle the puck along the boards, Dennis Seidenberg executed a textbook pinch along the wall to push a pass to Krejci. From behind the goal line, Krejci threaded a pass to Zdeno Chara at the left circle. Reimer tried to slide over, but Chara snapped a shot over the goalie’s blocker at 11:12 to make it a 2-1 game.
But too few of those sequences took place in the first two periods. The Bruins didn’t manage the puck well. They gave the Leafs speed through center ice. When the Bruins had the puck, they couldn’t bust through Toronto’s multiple perimeters of protection in front of the net. The Leafs were credited with 27 blocked shots, more than double the Bruins’ 13 blocks.
Reimer, like he’s done all series, didn’t field all of the pucks cleanly. He left rebounds in the danger areas. But the Bruins weren’t in position to clean up the garbage.
“Our D’s weren’t very good at moving the puck in the first period, which took away some of our momentum,” said coach Claude Julien. “Our forwards certainly weren’t skating the way they did. We were turning pucks over at the blue line instead of getting pucks deep like we have for most of the series. We got away from our game. It took ourselves 40 minutes to get ourselves going.”
The Leafs came out the way everyone expected: on fire. They skated with purpose and with zero intentions of trading their hockey sticks for golf clubs so soon. In the first period, they blitzed the Bruins with a 19-shot hailstorm. Had Tuukka Rask not been aces (his show-stopper was a whip-fast glove save on Clarke MacArthur at 7:16), the Bruins would have been down a handful of goals before most of the fans had cleared security.
But even Rask can’t prevent mistakes from turning into goals. At 10:03 of the second, the Bruins went on the power play when James van Riemsdyk was called for interference.
The No. 1 power-play unit couldn’t get anything going. Part of the second unit rolled over the boards in search for better luck. That unit included Andrew Ference.
Patrice Bergeron rolled a puck up the right-side boards for Ference. The defenseman, who replaced the injured Wade Redden on the No. 2 unit, tried to shuffle the puck to Marchand in the high slot. But Ference misplayed the puck. Tyler Bozak stepped in front of the pass and pulled away for a shorthanded chance. Bozak tucked the puck under Rask’s blocker at 11:27 to give the Leafs a 1-0 lead.
“I was first trying to settle it down and make a play after that,” Ference said. “But I never got the settle-down part right.”
Toronto transformed another error into a goal. Johnny Boychuk started a routine breakout with a bank pass off the right-side boards for Horton. But Boychuk’s pass was out of Horton’s reach. Horton fished for the puck but couldn’t corral it. MacArthur settled it in the neutral zone and barreled over the blue line.
Boychuk shot forward in hopes of tightening the gap on MacArthur. But Boychuk accelerated too far. MacArthur sidestepped Boychuk, slashed into the crease, and lifted a backhander over Rask (31 saves) at 1:58 of the third to give the Leafs a 2-0 lead.
Two goofs. Two goals. That’s how quickly mistakes are punished in the playoffs.
“One’s a breakaway on the power play,” Julien said. “The other one’s just poor execution from a puck off the boards, let a guy come in with speed, and just walk in. We didn’t give [Rask] much help on those.”
For the Bruins, they hope they can transition seamlessly from Friday’s frenzied third period into Sunday’s start in Toronto. That is no guarantee.
“If there’s one positive to take out of this game, it’s the way we pressured in the third period and the way we battled,” Seidenberg said. “We kept the pucks in and got pucks to the net. We have to take that out of the game and pick up right from there going into the next one.”