The Toronto Maple Leafs suffered a heartbreaking overtime defeat last night, losing 4-3 to the Boston Bruins. The Leafs are now behind the Bruins 3-1 in the first round series, setting them up for a must-win game this coming Friday.
The Leafs seemed poised to tie the series at two, and bring their A game to Boston, but it was not to be. Despite an early two-goal lead, the Leafs were unable to stop Boston from tying the game and winning in over-time.
The first period saw Joffrey Lupul wrist it past Tuuka Rask after receiving a nice pass from Phil Kessel who had circled the net with the puck. Near the end of the first, Franson shot it past Rask from the point, giving the Leafs a 2-0 lead to end the first.
“It felt like we were putting up a lot of pressure,” said Lupul to reporters following the game. “Obviously it hurts a lot, but we did a lot of things right and the series isn’t over.”
The second period saw the Bruins cut into the Leafs lead in less than a minute. Patrice Bergeron snapped a shot past James Reimer, making the score 2-1. Leo Komarov was in the box for a charging violation that occurred at the end of the first period.
David Krejci was able to get it past Reimer to tie the game at 2-2, and he wasn’t finished there. Less than five minutes later, Krejci was able to sink a power-play goal to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead.
Within a minute of losing the lead, the Leafs regrouped and continued to pressure Boston in the defensive zone. Clarke MacArthur was able to track down a rebound from Matt Frattin and got it past Rank to tie the game at three.
The third period had both teams buckle down and making sure to play sound, defensive hockey. At 7:49 in the third period defencemen Mark Fraser was struck on the forward by a puck and left the game.
Lupul said that Fraser “has been an absolute warrior” for the team. Fraser has been a reliable defensive defencemen that has spent nearly the whole year paired with Cody Franson.
The Leafs were left with five defencemen, which meant an increase in ice-time for Jake Gardiner. Gardiner finished the game with two assists in 27:45 minutes playing time.
After a scoreless third period, the game went into overtime. The Leafs got a number of chances, but failed to put it past Rask. The game ended when an ill-timed pinch by Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf led to a 2-1 where Krejci put the game-winning goal past Reimer.
“It feels like a dagger after the effort that was put forth by our group,” said Coach Randy Carlyle in a post-game press conference. “You can’t afford to make mistakes that lead to odd-man rushes.”
“It’s a bad mistake at a bad time to make it,” said Phaneuf to reporters after the game. “I made the wrong decision.”
“All our focus is winning a game in their building.”
The Leafs will once again regroup and refocus for the next game against Boston, which may prove to be their last of this post-season.
“We worked hard and left everything out there,” Lupul said. “It really felt like we were putting a lot of pressure on the Bruins and to be honest, on the bench it felt like it was just a matter of time before we got one. We feel like we are playing better and better. We’ll be ready to go in Game 5.”
The Leafs played a noticeably better game in game 4, which could lead to a victory in Boston. If the Leafs were to win game 5, the series will come back to Toronto.
Carlyle told reporters that John-Michael Liles will likely replace Fraser tomorrow night.
The player to watch Friday night will be Jake Gardiner. His explosive skating and knock for carrying the puck and putting up offense will be sorely needed. If Gardiner is paired with Franson, they could form a highly mobile, puck-moving duo that can play at both ends of the ice.
Game 5 will be broadcast this Friday, May 10th at 7 p.m. The Boston Bruins currently lead the series 3-1.