A tight game after two periods was all Boston in the third, and the Bruins have a few dates scheduled with Columbus.
Boston put the initial pressure on Toronto, tallying the first shot at about the one-minute mark. A good cycle early in the offensive zone kept the Garden faithful roaring for the first few minutes of the first.
Quickly, that tide changed – The B’s were surprised with a great pass to a wide-open Nylander, who fired point-blank shot, but Tuukka Rask was ready. This led to a bit too tight of a grip on the sticks after the first few minutes, as the puck wasn’t moving quite as fast as the Bruins were thinking.
Toronto took advantage and pushed back. For a five-minute stretch, Boston couldn’t get across center ice; first by a smooth skate by Mitch Marner, and then by Marner and his linemates hemming in Boston’s fourth line for an entire shift. Fortunately, the Bruins escaped unharmed.
As the game rocked back and forth, Boston was less able to control in the offensive zone, but the defense – notably the pair of Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo – did an awesome job of matching Toronto’s rushes with good spacing.
Three minutes later, off a broken cycle and turnover from Jake Gardiner in the Bruins’ offensive zone, Marcus Johansson picked up the loose puck and walked uninhibited into the middle of the right dot, firing home a wrister just inside the far post.
Two late first-period goals do a great job of breaking down an opponent. Would it carry through to the next frame?
Boston had an outstanding start to the frame. Toronto put some pressure on early, and the B’s responded immediately. The Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – David Pastrnak line looked like the power-play unit that they are… at even strength. When they got off the ice, however, Toronto capitalized, and a timely John Moore turnover led to a quality shot by John Tavares, who sniped the far corner to draw Toronto within one.
A penalty to Brandon Carlo for a somewhat weak crosschecking call in front of Rask put the B’s on the kill, and after over a minute of attack from the Leafs, a would-be clear was brought back as a defensive zone faceoff because the referee thought Rask knocked the net off on purpose. He spent a solid ten seconds pointing at the dot and talking to Tuukka about it. Fortunately, it would be the only call in the period and the game’s natural momentum was allowed to continue.
With the halfway point behind them, Boston began to push the puck back at the Leafs. Toronto was absolutely flying up ice, and the B’s were able to counter, but getting possession was a challenge. Chara looked as though he was struggling to skate, and was toppled by people half his size, but he pushed through it.
A post-period scrum in front of the Toronto bench gave both teams some fuel for the fire heading into the second intermission.
Boston came out flying and hitting. Acciari landed three hits on his first shift of the frame.
Sean Kuraly made a simple skate and stickhandle to gain the blue line, and RIFLED a shot past Andersen’s glove to put Boston up, 3-1!!!!
The Bruins just kept skating at Toronto. Smart plays to get the puck out of the defensive zone, possession or not, gave Boston time to defend in the neutral zone. A bench minor saw Pastrnak sit in the box for two, but the PK looked much better than the first trip out. A clear from Carlo, a great poke from Bergeron, and an excellent skating effort from Nordstrom burned the first 90 second, and Toronto lazily skated the puck up ice for their last man-advantage attempt.
The Bruins didn’t look back. After the ten-minute mark, Charlie Coyle used his massive frame to wind down nearly a full minute by taking a lap in the offensive zone by himself. Bergeron’s line put together a quick shift, a shot from Marchand, and a smart line change. That brought Kuraly’s line back on the ice, whose relentless forecheck only ended by a puck deflecting into the netting. Hell, even Karson Kuhlman looked like Brad Marchand for a shift. Jake DeBrusk outhustled Auston Matthews to keep the puck moving towards the Toronto net.
With five minutes left, Toronto brought the attack back, and was able to put a few pucks on net, with a near-goal – but Bergeron, as always, was in the right spot and hammered the puck out. Andersen was pulled with three minutes to go and Coyle and Bergeron the game with empty-netters.