Depth scoring was ridiculed all season for the Boston Bruins, but the bottom six forwards got the job done in Boston’s, 5-1, win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup.
The Bruins improved to 4-1 in Game 7s against Toronto and have now won the last six consecutive series meetings between the two franchises dating back to 1969.
Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, fell to 3-7 all-time in Game 7s (0-2 with Toronto), while Boston’s bench boss, Bruce Cassidy, improved to 2-0 in Game 7s (both with the Bruins).
B’s goaltender, Tuukka Rask (4-3-0 record, 2.31 goals against average, .928 save percentage in seven games this postseason) made 32 saves on 33 shots against (.970 SV%) in the win.
Leafs goaltender, Frederik Andersen (3-4-0, 2.75 GAA, ,922 SV% in seven games played this postseason) stopped 27 out of 30 shots faced (.900 SV%) in the loss.
The B’s clinched the series, 4-3, and advance to the Second Round of the postseason for the second year in a row.
Zane McIntyre was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL)– while his teammate, Dan Vladar, tends to the crease for Providence in their First Round Calder Cup Playoff matchup with the Charlotte Checkers (AHL)– and served as a healthy scratch on the depth chart for Boston.
Toronto dominated possession through the first half of the opening period, but Boston was first to get on the scoreboard late in the opening frame.
Joakim Nordstrom (2) followed up on a rebound from point blank and pocketed the puck short side on Andersen and into the twine to give the Bruins the lead, 1-0, after the B’s sustained solid pressure in the offensive zone.
Moments later, Marcus Johansson (1) picked up a loose puck behind the net and wrapped around the frame to fire a shot off the far post and in while Charlie Coyle was screening the Maple Leafs goaltender.
Johansson’s goal was unassisted and gave Boston the two-goal lead, 2-0, at 17:46 of the first period.
The Bruins amassed two goals in a span of 3:17 as they entered the first intermission with the lead on the scoreboard, but trailed Toronto in shots on goal, 12-11.
Toronto also held the advantage in takeaways (2-1) and hits (12-9), while Boston led in blocked shots (6-1), giveaways (6-4) and face-off win percentage (54-46) after one period.
Entering the second period, both teams had yet to see any time on the power play.
Early in the middle frame, Tyler Ennis worked the puck out from deep in the attacking zone and dropped it back to John Tavares, whereby Tavares (2) sniped a wrist shot past Rask from close range to cut the lead in half, 2-1.
Ennis (2) had the only assist on Tavares’ goal at 3:54 of the second period.
Through 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and the Maple Leafs led, 25-19, in shots on goal– including a, 13-8, advantage in the second period alone.
Heading into the second intermission, Boston led in blocked shots (14-2), giveaways (15-9) and face-off win% (57-44), while Toronto led in takeaways (7-5) and hits (25-15).
The Leafs were 0/1 on the power play after two periods and the B’s had yet to see any action on the skater advantage heading into the third period.
After knocking the puck out of his own zone with his stick, Kuraly (1) slipped through the neutral zone and fired a shot past Andersen from the face-off circles in Boston’s attacking zone to give the Bruins another two-goal lead.
Noel Acciari (1) and Nordstrom (1) tabbed the assists on Kuraly’s goal at 2:40 of the third period and the B’s led, 3-1.
Moments later, Boston’s fourth line was on the ice again, but so was David Pastrnak and the home team’s bench was charged with a minor penalty for too many men at 5:19 of the third period.
Pastrnak served the infraction in the box, while the Maple Leafs went back on the power play for the second time of the night.
Once again, Toronto couldn’t muster anything on the skater advantage.
With a little over three minutes remaining in regulation, Babcock pulled Andersen for an extra attacker. It backfired.
David Krejci worked the puck deep in the offensive zone and over to Coyle (3) for the empty net goal to make it, 4-1, Bruins at 17:26. Boston’s bottom-six forwards had scored four goals in a game after facing scrutiny in the regular season for their lack of depth scoring.
Meanwhile, Krejci (3) notched the only assist on Coyle’s goal.
With about two minutes remaining in the game, Toronto pulled their goaltender again, then shortly thereafter iced the puck and had to pull Andersen all over again about a minute later.
This time, as the final second ticked off the clock, Bergeron (3) had the final say as he so often does for Boston against Toronto with the Bruins’ second empty net goal of the night to clinch the victory, 5-1, at 19:59.
At the final horn, the Leafs had been eliminated and their 15-year streak of failing to advanced past the First Round of the playoffs extended.
Toronto finished Tuesday night leading in shots on goal, 33-32, as well as in hits, 32-26, while the B’s finished off Game 7 leading in blocked shots (17-4) and giveaways (17-13).
Both teams went 50-50 in face-off win% and the Maple Leafs finished the night (0/2) with the only power play opportunities in the game.
The team that scored the first goal in a Game 7 improved to 129-44 (.746) all-time, while Boston also improved to 15-12 overall (14-8 at home) in an NHL record 27 Game 7s.
Toronto fell to 12-12 in franchise history in Game 7s and 5-11 while on the road for the seventh and deciding game in that span.
The Boston Bruins will face the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and have home ice advantage for as long as they remain in Cup contention.
It will be the first time both clubs face each other in the postseason.
Game 1 is Thursday at TD Garden with the rest of the Second Round schedule to be officially announced upon the conclusion of all the First Round matchups.