By MyFM's Jake Archer - The Bruins were on the brink of blowing a 3-1 lead, and they needed to kick themselves into gear. They'd had mutiple chances to advance and let each one slip away in painstaking fashion. Luckily, they'd have their Game 7 at home and the Garden crowd would be behind them the whole way. They'd need to show up themselves though.
I won't lie, I was worried. It seems silly because Boston has fought through adversity all season long and won games against improbable odds time and time again. How could anyone doubt them? Well, they felt like a totally different team. Things were just out of sorts and the Toronto squad that looked dead after two games had shown that they not only had a pulse, but they were strong enough to make things very difficult. Would Tuukka Rask stand on his head and silence the doubters for a bit, or would he cave and play his last game as a Bruin? That was just one of the huge questions that needed to be answered in this one.
Two minutes into the first period, that answer looked like it could be bad. Patrick Marleau scored on the power play with assists from Jake Gardiner and William Nylander to put Toronto up 1-0. After Morgan Rielly was called for a delay of game for putting the puck over the glass, the Bruins got an advantage of their own. Jake DeBrusk tied it at 1 just before five minutes had been played with his fourth goal of the postseason. The assists came from David Pastrnak and David Krejci.
Unfortunatley, Rask still hadn't settled in and Marleau scored again just a few minutes later off an assist from Mitch Marner. At this point, it looked like Rask had officially cracked and he'd be letting in a goal every time the B's scored. It was too early to pull him, but I'm sure the thought crossed a lot of minds. Not too long after Tampa took the lead, the Bruins tied it back up on a goal from Danton Heinen. It was his first goal of the postseason and came from Krejci and Rick Nash. Boston ended the period by taking the lead for the first time on a goal from Patrice Bergeron. It was Bergy's first goal of the postseason and came off assists from Kevan Miller and David Backes. Boston had edged Toronto 12-10 in first period shots and led 3-2.
In the second, Rask came undone again. Early in the period, Travis Dermott scored to tie it up on assists from Nylander and Roman Polak. Around four minutes later, the Leafs took the lead with a Kasperi Kapanen unassisted, short-handed goal. The Bruins out-shot Toronto 13-6 in the period, but were being stone-walled. They were looking lost and frankly, having trouble handling the puck at times. It was fair to wonder if this was even the same group of guys that had taken a 2-0 lead in the series. They'd need to regroup and figure it out in the third, as they had done so many times before.
Almost on cue, the Bruins showed up to play. Torey Krug scored a little over a minute into the final period on a slap-shot that tied it up at four. He was assisted by Miller and Bergeron. Around four minutes later, DeBrusk scored his fifth of the playoffs and second of the night on an assist from Krejci. It was one of the coolest goals I'd seen as DeBrusk went flying in low and crashed into the boards after slipping the shot by the goaltender. The rookie really led the way and made a name for himself in this series, capping it with this performance. His play was amazing and it was that much more fun to watch because of how physical it was. He made plays in tough situations while getting beat up by defenders.
The Bruins had woken up, and snatched the lead at 5-4. We just had to hope Rask and the defense would hang on to it. Well, we thought that's all we needed, but instead David Pastrnak tied DeBrusk with his fifth of the series to pad the lead. Bergeron and Brad Marchand assisted. Finally, towards the end of the game Toronto pulled the goalie and Brad Marchand backhanded the puck into the net to secure the win in the game and the series. Riley Nash and Zdeno Chara had assisted and the game ended at 7-4. Boston outshot Toronto 11-8 in the period and 36-24 in the game.
It was a huge turnaround from the second to third period for everyone, especially Rask. The goalie had done the job and clamped down at the end, which was huge. His night wasn't the prettiest, but it was better than Toronto's Frederick Andersen, who blew up down the stretch. The high-scoring affair had it all and the entertainment level was through the roof. I can't even imagine what it must have been like in the building. The Leafs still have not won a playoff series since 2004 at this point. Now Boston would have the chance to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning, who they clashed with all season long. Game 1 was to be played in Florida on Saturday afternoon.
The way the NHL playoffs work, the two best teams from each conference can meet up in the second round. It's happening with the Bruins and Lightning in the East and the Jets and Predators out west. While you'd like to see that a little farther down the road, it's still cool to see juggernauts go at it. In Game 1, Boston broke through first when Rick Nash scored on the power-play late in the first. It was his second goal of the playoffs and came from Bergeron and Pastrnak. Early on in the second (42 seconds in to be exact), Bergeron picked up a goal of his own to put the B's up 2-0. The assists came from Marchand and Pastrnak.
Dan Girardi scored his first goal of the postseason for Tampa a few minutes after Bergeron's to cut the lead in half. Cedric Paquette and Victor Hedman picked up the assists. Towards the middle of the period, Nash scored for Boston again from Krejci and Pastrnak to make it 3-1. Tampa wouldn't go away though, as Mikhail Sergachev scored on the power play from Bradyden Point and Yanni Gourde. Rask was having trouble with a broken skate and that caused him to let the goal by. It was 3-2 heading into the third and it looked like this one might be tight the whole way. The Bruins had other plans...
In the third, Boston started to execute at a higher level and seemed to get comfortable after feeling Tampa out for a bit. Brad Marchand scored off an assist from Charlie McAvoy, Bergeron scored from Marchand and Pastrnak and DeBrusk finished it off with an empty-netter from Marchand and McAvoy. The stars were bright for Boston and when they play that way, they look pretty unbeatable. Tampa had no answer and even pulled their goalie with six minutes left, which was surprisingly desperate and wild. They outshot Boston 36-24 overall, but Rask was superb as he made 34 saves. Boston didn't get a lot of shots off against Andrei Vasilevskiy, but they cashed in at a high rate.
Boston, and Rask, did well against Tampa this year but the playoffs are a different animal. Tampa is bouncing back right now in Game 2 and as it stands, it looks like the series will be tied. I'll have more to come on Game 2 soon. Stay tuned!