TORONTO — A puck to the throat, a shot to the back of the head, and 2 points down the drain. As the rain poured down outside Scotiabank Arena on a dreary Monday night, the ongoing flood of injuries grew deeper for the Bruins in their 4-2 loss to the Maple Leafs.
Kevan Miller, Boston’s rock-jaw blue liner, exited after the first period with a throat injury and remained overnight at a local hospital for observation — what coach Bruce Cassidy explained was a precautionary move in case swelling in the area increased.
“X-rays were negative,” said Cassidy, noting that a puck rode up Miller’s stick and struck him below the chin. “They’ll keep him overnight to make sure his breathing stays normal . . . right now he’s out of any danger, from what we’ve heard.”
Later in the game, Jake DeBrusk, felled near the left post in a fight for position around the net, had a shot from teammate Danton Heinen’s stick ring off the back of his head, the puck appearing to strike his helmet near the base of his skull.
DeBrusk appeared dazed, made his way to the bench, and saw the game through to its :00 conclusion. He was not made available to the media after the loss. Some five minutes after the game, a doctor was summoned to the Boston dressing room, possibly an indication the 22-year-old winger needed a medical assessment.
“He tried to finish, but missed the last shift,”said Cassidy. “I don’t know anything other than that with him.”
Asked if DeBrusk also went to the hospital, Cassidy said, “No, he’s still here.” The club’s media relations staff denied a request to talk with DeBrusk before the club left for its charter flight back to Hanscom Field in Bedford.
Other than that, just a dandy trip to Southern Ontario for the Bruins, who lost some of the traction gained over the weekend from back-to-back wins over Pittsburgh and Montreal. The loss here came in their sixth straight one-goal game, their record 3-1-2 in those close encounters of the offensively challenged kind.
They have scored but 12 goals in those six games, though they were encouraged somewhat here because both goals came off the stick of No. 1 gunner David Pastrnak. He and linemate Brad Marchand have been borderline stone cold in the absence of top pivot Patrice Bergeron, and they finally showed some life after the first period when Cassidy pulled rookie Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson off their line and went with another rookie, Colby Cave, as their chief distributor.
JFK lost all five of his draws in the first period, overmatched by veteran star John Tavares. Forsbacka Karlsson also had an awkward collision in the first with Marchand, one that the L’il Ball o’ Hate was lucky to escape without injury.
“Listen, we’ve talked about this, he needs to bring it every night,” Cassidy said, assessing JFK’s struggles in what was his third game as the No. 1 pivot.
“If he is going to play with those guys . . . it was [Sidney] Crosby [Friday] and it’s Tavares . . . that’s a big ask. We weren’t sure if he was ready to make the move. We saw something we liked and moved him up. Tonight we didn’t see as much of it and we moved Colby up. Going forward, look, until we get Bergy back, it’s a work in progress.”
The Leafs, despite their inability to generate sustained offense through the first two periods, carried a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
Josh Leivo struck for a power-play goal with 1:22 left in the second to break a 2-2 deadlock, the Bruins rallying back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits over the two periods. Leivo trailed into the slot, after Jaro Halak (27 saves) turned back a Tyler Ennis doorstep stuff, and put away the rebound for the lead. It was on the 17th shot the Leafs managed over the two periods.
Zach Hyman added an empty-netter with 1:35 to go to round out the scoring.
Toronto jumped to the 1-0 lead at 17:44 of the first when Travis Dermott nailed in a 35-foot wrister. Allowed plenty of time to wheel and deal in the slot, Dermott snapped off his shot with Miller and Hyman jostling for position at the top of the crease.
It turned out to be Miller’s final shift of the night. Miller was struck in the throat by the puck shortly before the goal.
“He was missed tonight, that’s for sure,” Halak said, referring to Miller. “He’s a tough guy to play against. He is always in your face and he is always blocking shots. Too bad he couldn’t finish the game — we all hope he’ll be fine.”
Halak said he was uncertain whether the puck hit Miller’s face or neck.
“He blocked the shot with his stick,” Halak said. “Then it hit his face or neck or whatever.”
Pastrnak, who clicked for a hat trick vs. the Leafs two weeks ago at TD Garden, banged in his first for the 1-1 equalizer at 3:39 of the second. It was a power-play strike, with Marchand sending a delicious backhand feed across the crease for Pastrnak to convert from low in the left wing circle.
The Leafs moved to a 2-1 lead 13:06, with rookie Igor Ozhiganov knocking home his first career goal. But the beautiful work on the goal belonged to Mitch Marner, the slick winger, who put on a skating tour de force behind Halak’s net before dishing out a silken feed for the oncoming Ozhiganov to one-time in from the left wing faceoff dot.
The Bruins only needed 1:16 to counter, with Pastrnak nailing in equalizer No. 2 after Marchand won a draw in the left wing circle. The draw came back to Torey Krug above the circle and he snapped a pass into the slot for Pastrnak to snare and then pop by Frederik Andersen.