Maple Leafs rebound in Game 3, take 2-1 series lead over Bruins
TORONTO — The game clock nearly eroded, David Pastrnak fired a slapper into Mitch Marner, who absorbed it like a cannonball as his body twisted around. As the final buzzer sounded, he shot again into Marner, who had flopped in front of him.
Pastrnak’s next try landed in the other end of the rink. Frustrated as the Leafs celebrated, he turned and fired it off the neutral-zone glass.
It was that kind of night for Pastrnak, and the Bruins, in a 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs in Monday’s Game 3.
The Leafs are now up, 2-1, in this first-round series. They can take a commanding lead Wednesday at Scotiabank Arena.
Game 1 was a Toronto track meet. In Game 2, Boston gave them a bruising. Game 3 was a bit of a hybrid: Toronto, its stretch passes mostly stunted by the Bruins, skated pucks out of trouble. The Leafs also upped the physicality factor, even without pugnacious Nazem Kadri (suspended for the rest of the series for his actions in Game 2). The Leafs were credited with 42 hits to the Bruins’ 33, and served up as many stiff pops as did Boston.
What really did in the B’s: poor penalty killing (Leafs scored on 2 of 3) and a power play that produced a goal (Charlie Coyle), but went without a shot on two other opportunities.
“Our kill wasn’t good enough,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Our power play, first unit was a little off.”
Had Pastrnak and first-line cohorts Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron been their typical game-changing selves, it may not have mattered. But they went a collective 0-0—0, landing seven shots. Twelve attempts were blocked or missed the net.
They saw a lot of what Cassidy called “a very committed fivesome”: the Zach Hyman-John Tavares-Marner trio, and defensemen Jake Muzzin and Nikita Zaitsev.
The Tavares line, plus shot-blockers Ron Hainsey and Zaitsev, was out there in the final minutes, when they couldn’t get a 6-on-5 goal with Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci, and Torey Krug in their midst after Tuukka Rask had been pulled.
“Honestly, I don’t mind it,” Cassidy said. “It’s two good lines going head-to-head. It’s going to tilt our way at some point. Our players are too good.”
But he conceded an “old-fashioned goal” — driving to the net after shots and getting second chances — might help their cause.
Pastrnak, in particular, struggled to get going. He made several miscues with the puck, and his centering pass to Toronto’s Andreas Johnsson in the final minutes nearly went the other way for a goal.
“We’re getting a bit frustrated,” Pastrnak said. “But it’s a long series. We’re going to regroup and focus on our game.”
Said Bergeron: “Simplify, especially early on in games. Things usually open up after that.”
Marchand gave the Leafs credit.
“No one’s going to walk over anyone right now,” he said. “Not in the playoffs.”
Rask was the Bruins’ best player, making 31 saves and emerging intact from a crash with Tavares.
“A little stinger,” said Rask, who laid prone for several moments after Charlie McAvoy bumped Tavares into the netminder. “It cracked my neck, so my arm went numb for like, 10, 15 seconds there. That was it.”
Frederik Andersen, by far the best Leaf in all three games, stopped 34 shots. His diving stick stop on Krejci, all alone in front with 3:10 left, may have been his best.
Toronto’s fourth line was effective early, and got the Leafs on the board 2:38 into the second. Krug lost a puck battle to Tyler Ennis in the corner, and Trevor Moore jammed home a rebound off a Morgan Rielly point shot.
“I don’t know if we stopped playing, but we allowed them to stand in front of the net, didn’t clear out,” Cassidy said.
The Bruins’ second line answered 52 seconds later, when DeBrusk’s strong move to the net popped a rebound loose for Krejci. Twice before the Bruins’ leading scorer in the playoffs, the man DeBrusk refers to as “Playoff Krech” this time of year scored his first of this postseason.
Matthews, quiet in this series to that point, got on the board at 10:12 of the second.
The refereeing standard was much tighter Monday than it was in Game 2. Moments after an uncalled interference on Coyle, David Backes was called for a legitimate high-stick. Matthews cashed in a one-timer from Johnsson 12 seconds into the power play, the Bruins never set in their coverage.
The Leafs made it 3-1 seven minutes later when Johnsson scored on the power play. Steven Kampfer, playing his first career playoff game, and Brandon Carlo chased Tavares below the net and he found Johnsson for the backhand score.
The Bruins halved the lead two minutes later, thanks to a man-advantage wrinkle.
With Krejci below the goal line and Danton Heinen stationed at the side of the net, Matt Grzelcyk shot wide from the point. Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott denied Heinen’s bid off the bounce, but Coyle made good from the slot. It was a 3-2 game, 38 seconds before intermission.
That’s how it stayed, right up until a swarm of happy Leafs surrounded a hobbling Marner.
“A pretty evenly played game,” Cassidy said. “They were one play better than us, whether it’s a save or a [shot]. That’s playoff hockey.”