The Toronto Maple Leafs had another 4-1 lead and… …this time they didn’t blow it.
Yes, Toronto forced a Game 6 back at Air Canada Centre after defeating the Boston Bruins, 4-3, on Saturday night at TD Garden in Game 5.
Rask made nine saves on 13 shots against for a .692 SV% in 31:55 time on ice for the loss.
Facing elimination, Mike Babcock looked to shake things up alongside his brightest star in Toronto. William Nylander had played alongside Auston Matthews until Game 5 when Babcock switched Nylander with Connor Brown.
It paid off in just a little over six-and-a-half minutes.
Matthews wrapped around the goal and sent a quick saucer to Brown (1) who whacked the rubber biscuit out of the air and into the back of the twine behind Boston’s netminder. Matthews (1) and Zach Hyman (3) notched the assists on Brown’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and Toronto got out front on the scoreboard, 1-0, at 6:36 of the first period.
The Bruins were pulled apart on stretch passes almost four minutes later, when Jake Gardiner connected on a pass up the ice to Nazem Kadri who then kept things moving by sending it up to Andreas Johnsson on a “create-your-own-breakaway” style play.
Johnsson (1) beat Rask and gave the Maple Leafs a 2-0 lead at 10:12 of the first period. Kadri (1) picked up his first point in his first game back since being suspended and Gardiner (1) recorded the secondary assist on Johnsson’s goal.
Bruce Cassidy started the night mismatching Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy with the Leafs lineup. He ended the first period by putting his best defensive pair on the ice every time the Matthews line was out there.
Yet, after David Pastrnak loudly rang the post, the Bruins were not able to convert on the power play and Toronto remained ahead, 2-0.
After one period, Boston outshot Toronto (15-6), led in hits (12-8) and won 63% of the faceoffs in the first. The Maple Leafs led in blocked shots (5-3), takeaways (3-2), giveaways (7-1) and more importantly, 2-0 on the scoreboard. Toronto had yet to see a power play and the Bruins were 0/1 on the man advantage.
Penalty time keepers got their money’s worth in the second period as Mitch Marner opened things up with a tripping penalty against Pastrnak, putting the Bruins on a power play at 9:28 of the second period.
Shortly thereafter, David Backes (2) collected the garbage and piled it home to cut the Maple Leafs lead in half and make it 2-1 with a power play goal. Jake DeBrusk (2) and Torey Krug (6) had the assists on Backes’s goal at 9:45.
Just as the TD Garden faithful were getting back into it, Bozak (2) sent one past Rask on another goal that all started because of Toronto’s stretch passes. Morgan Rielly (5) and James van Riemsdyk (1) notched the assists on Bozak’s goal and it was 3-1 Toronto just past the halfway point in the second period.
Then Matt Grzelcyk tripped Johnsson at 11:24 and the floodgates opened.
First, van Riemsdyk (3) roofed a goal from the side of the net, beating Rask’s short side blocker after the Bruins goaltender dropped to the butterfly stance. Toronto’s power play goal gave them a three-goal lead and suddenly it was, 4-1, thanks to van Riemsdyk’s goal at 11:55 of the second period.
Marner (5) and Bozak (2) had the assists on the goal that ended up chasing Boston’s starting goaltender from the crease as Cassidy replaced Rask with his backup goaltender, Anton Khudobin.
With the relief effort, Khudobin made his first career appearance in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.
Hyman, Gardiner and Backes roughed each other up after a stoppage in play and all three players were assessed minor penalties. Toronto’s Hyman and Gardiner each received two-minutes for roughing, while Boston’s David Backes got two, two-minute minor penalties for roughing (totaling four minutes). All of the penalties came at 12:51 of the second period.
Then Bozak took a penalty for interference at 13:18 and gave the Bruins a power play that quickly became a 5-on-3 power play for Boston when Roman Polak slashed Rick Nash almost 30 seconds later.
Boston had a two-man advantage for 1:34, but they did not convert on the opportunity.
Late in the second period, Grzelcyk worked the puck down low, pinching behind the net, then pulling the puck along the wall to free himself and send a pass across to Sean Kuraly in the low slot.
Kuraly (2) scored while falling on a one-time and the Bruins trailed by two goals, 4-2. Grzelcyk (1) and Noel Acciari (1) were credited with the assists on the goal at 17:18 of the second period.
Johnsson ended the period’s final penalty call after hooking Pastrnak at 18:33.
After 40 minutes of play, the Maple Leafs led on the scoreboard, 4-2, while the Bruins led in shots on goal, 25-16. Boston also led in hits (19-17), takeaways (8-6) and faceoff win percentage (59-42). The Maple Leafs led in blocked shots (15-7) and giveaways (10-3) through two periods. Toronto was 1/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/5 entering the second intermission.
Early in the third period, Maple Leafs defender, Travis Dermott, was penalized for holding Bruins forward, Noel Acciari.
Despite their best efforts, the Bruins power play was powerless and Toronto made yet another kill.
Acciari (1) took it upon himself, however, to strike back on the scoreboard, bringing Boston to within one at 5:56 of the third period after he crashed the net and cashed in on a puck that rebounded off the side of the goal.
The Bruins fourth liner slipped the puck past Andersen’s right leg pad as the Maple Leafs netminder was moving left to right desperately trying to plug up the net.
Tim Schaller (2) and Krug (7) had the assists on Acciari’s goal and Toronto held onto a 4-3 lead.
Short of the kitchen sink, Boston continued to pressure Toronto for the remainder of the third period to no avail.
Cassidy pulled Khudobin for an extra skater with about 1:13 remaining in regulation and called a timeout after a stoppage in play with 32.8 seconds to go, but the Bruins were unable to set up the perfect play to tie the game and force an overtime.
After 60 minutes of hockey, Toronto had won, 4-3.
Boston led in shots on goal (45-21) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), but the Maple Leafs led in blocked shots (22-8) and the final result. Toronto finished the night 1/1 on the power play and the Bruins went 1/6.
Game 6 is scheduled for Monday night in Toronto, where the Bruins will have a chance to win the series on the road (as they now lead the series, 3-2) or come back home to a Game 7 (in which whoever wins would advance). Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 7:00 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune into NBCSN for coverage. Canadian fans looking to get their fill can follow the action on CBC or TVAS.