TORONTO — Thick, intermittent fog disrupted flights into here in recent days, forcing the Bruins’ charter flight out of New York Thursday night to be diverted to Buffalo. After an early-morning ride across the border, they didn’t settle into their hotel rooms here until after 4 a.m. Friday.
And here at Scotiabank Arena Saturday night, the fog crept into the Bruins’ game.
Paced by a pair of goals by Auston Matthews, who led the league with 60 goals last season, the Maple Leafs pinned a 2-1 loss on the Bruins, ending a seven-game Black-and-Gold winning streak and dropping them to 10-2-0 for the season.
“We weren’t very sharp,” agreed Bruins coach Jim Montgomery. “And give the Maple Leafs credit — I thought they checked extremely well. They protected middle ice well, but you’re on the third game of a five-day road trip [wins in Pittsburgh and Manhattan] and we go into the third period, 2-1, and we gave ourselves a chance. I just like our ability to manage games and give ourselves a chance.”
The loss also ended an eight-game winning streak for Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark, who was tied with Tim Thomas for the best start in net for the Bruins from the beginning of a season. Ullmark finished with 26 saves.
Brad Marchand scored the only Boston goal, connecting on a penalty shot in the second period for the 1-1 tie.
The loss, coupled with a 6-4 Vegas win in Montreal, also slipped the Bruins into second place in the NHL’s overall standings. Bruce Cassidy’s Knights (11-2-0) moved to a 2-point lead over Cassidy’s old club.
The Bruins, 6-0-0 on home ice, take on the bedraggled Blues, losers of six straight, Monday night on TD Garden ice. Ullmark again is expected in net and Charlie McAvoy, still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, will remain on the sidelines.
“Just wasn’t our best game,” said Marchand, now with four goals in the four games since returning from extensive hip surgeries. “We play 82 [games a season] for a reason. So we regroup.”
The Bruins in the first two periods were absent what has been their trademark offensive jump here in the first month of the season. They mustered but 14 shots across the opening 40:00 and entered the third period in a deficit (2-1) for the second time in the last three games.
The Leafs were stouter on defense than in many games the Bruins have played here in recent years. The combination of better D coverage and the Bruins being off register made for a 1-2 punch the Bruins could not overcome.
“I just don’t think we played to our strength,” said Marchand. “We turned over too many pucks in the neutral zone. Yeah, they played a good game. I wouldn’t say they defended us better than other teams have; we just didn’t play the way we needed to to win.”
Matthews opened the scoring at 7:19 of the first period, his fifth strike this season, on a very low-percentage scoring chance. The hulking pivot fished out a loose puck from behind the net, twisted toward the left post, and tucked a side-of-the-net backhander by an unaware Ullmark for the night’s first goal.
The Bruins were awarded the first power play of the night at 4:39 of the second (John Tavares slashing Jakub Zboril), and only 20 seconds into the the advantage, Marchand broke in alone on Ilya Samsonov, the ex-Capitals tender. When Marchand was dragged down on Samsonov’s doorstep by TJ Brodie, the ref immediately whistled the play down and awarded Marchand the penalty shot.
Marchand, charging up ice from halfway into his defensive zone, raced in on Samsonov, faked him to the ice with a low-slot deke, and then finished with a pinpoint backhander (John Bucyk style) to the top shelf.
The goal, recorded as a power-play strike, also delivered Marchand’s 800th career point in his 878th regular-season game (355-445–800).
Matthews was back for what proved to be the game winner at 14:07 of the second, ending a run of 20 straight penalty kills for the Bruins, and posting the Leafs to the 2-1 lead.
William Nylander set up the go-ahead goal, racing down the right side on the power play (Jake DeBrusk off for holding). Hampus Lindholm chased the speedy Nylander 3-4 feet too far from his defensive spot, slipping behind the goal line, which allowed Matthews to set up easily at the top of the crease. Nylander popped out on the other side of the net and slid across a velvety feed for Matthews to slam home for the lead.
Erik Kallgren took over the Leafs net for the start of the third period, the Leafs still holding the 2-1 advantage. It appeared Samsonov was hurt when he flopped back on his heels on Marchand’s penalty shot attempt.
. . .
David Krejci, injured by Detroit’s Michael Rasmussen Oct. 27, was back in the Bruins’ lineup after missing three-plus games. The smooth Czech pivot worked again between Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak and landed two shots. Post-game, he explained it was Rasmussen’s high stick, rather than body check, that knocked him out of the lineup. “The stick messed something up on the insides,” noted Krejci, wishing to remain unspecific about the nature of the injury … Matthews’s second goal was only the third power-play strike allowed by the Bruins this season … Pastrnak had a quiet night, but fired seven times, only one of which made it to the net … The Leafs outhit the Bruins by a whopping 47-21 … It was only the second time this season that the Bruins failed to hold a lead at any point in the game
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.