By MyFM's Jake Archer - Well, last time we checked in with the Boston Bruins, they were up 3-1 in their first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now, things are drastically different after the B's let Toronto back into the series to force a Game 7 in Boston. Things have just gone sideways and Boston is in danger of completing an embarrassing choke job.
In Game 5, Boston was at home and ready to put the series away. Brian Gionta, Ryan Donato, Tommy Wingels and Nick Holden were all scratches, but Patrice Bergeron was returning to the ice after missing one game with a mystery injury. He did not have much of an impact however. It was a Saturday night and the Garden was rocking. Somehow, that didn't matter and the visiting Maple Leafs took the air out of the building by taking an early lead. Connor Brown scored his first goal of the postseason just six and a half minutes into play on assists from Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman. Less than four minutes later, Andreas Johnsson put his team up 2-0 off assists from Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner. Kadri was returning after his three-game suspension.
The Bruins needed a response in the second, and they got it. Almost ten minutes into the period, David Backes scored on the power-play with assists from Jake DeBrusk and Torey Krug. However, Tyler Bozak took the goal right back for Toronto less than a minute later. The assists went to Morgan Rielly and James van Riemsdyk. JVR made it 4-1 shortly after with a power-play score for the Leafs. Bozak and Mitch Marner assisted on the play that chased Tuukka Rask from the game.
Boston needed another response, but this time it was a much bigger, more desperate situation. Luckily, Sean Kuraly found the back of the net with the help of Matt Grzelcyk and Noel Acciari. The second period closed at 4-2 Toronto and though it wasn't ideal, it was still easy to say the Bruins could pull this one out.
In the third, Acciari scored about six minutes into play to cut the deficit to just one. Boston was stifled the rest of the way though, and Toronto had a 4-3 victory to stave off elimination and survive in a hostile enviornment. The Bruins hadn't been able to cash in on so many power play opportunities, as they only went 1-for-6. They also couldn't put the puck home nearly enough despite outshooting Toronto 45-21 (15-6 in the first and 20-5 in the third). Frederick Andersen had made the saves he needed to between the pipes and weathered the storm while Rask was replaced by Anton Khudobin after letting four of 13 shots get through. I guess the bright side is that Khudobin was good in his first career playoff appearance.
Now Toronto got to head back home for a Game 6 on Monday night and the pressure was on Boston. There was no shot the Bruins wanted to see this thing go to seven games, and they'd need to do everything they could to prevent that. Five years ago, the Leafs did this same thing and then took a three-goal lead in the deciding game before blowing it to Boston, who went on to lose in the Stanley Cup Finals to Chicago. This time, Toronto will try to finish the job. They've certainly put up a good fight after getting their doors blown off in the first two games of this series and seem to have enjoyed having their backs up against the wall.
In Game 6, Toronto had a new purpose. Their city had been attacked by terrorists just hours before and 10 people were killed with 15 more injured. A moment of silence was observed before the game, and the players knew they had to help uplift their community and their country. Boston meanwhile, was sitting Gionta, Donato, and Holden again. Danton Heinen was also held out. Wingels was back on the ice but only put one shot on goal. The first period was scoreless for both teams but Boston gained the advantage in shots, 17-10. In the second, DeBrusk got the B's out in front early on off an assist from David Krejci. Thirty-five seconds later, William Nylander tied it up for the Leafs on a rebound with assists from Kadri and Nikita Zaitsev. The Leafs had a goal overturned on goalie interference and Boston seemed to grab the momentum. They had chance after chance as they dominated Toronto in their own zone, but came away with nothing. Finally, Mitch Marner put Toronto on top later in the period with his second goal of the playoffs. The assists went to Tomas Plekanec and Ron Hainsey. Down 2-1, Boston was in a familiar position of needing to come from behind in the third.
Once the final period rolled around, it seemed inevitable that the Bruins would come back and win. Despite being outshot in the second 12-9 and the third 8-7, they seemed to have some control. Nothing ever came of that though, and the Leafs iced the game with an empty-netter from Plekanec late. The assists were picked up by Marner and Zaitsev. Rask had played a much better game, but Andersen was superb again. Boston outshot Toronto 33-30 and neither team could get anything on the power-play. Game 7 will be in Boston on Wednesday night. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. and the winner will go on to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference semifinals. If the Bruins blow this, it'll be a huge disappointment for a team that needs to make a run. Tune in for all the action on MyFM 101.3!