The Toronto Maple Leafs played a tight game to beat the Boston Bruins and tie the series up at one game apiece. The Maple Leafs closely matched lines with the Bruins, trying to buy Phil Kessel as much time away from Zdeno Chara, which saw Kessel score the game-winning goal while Chara was on the bench.
The Leafs had four different players in the line-up, Matt Frattin, Ryan Hamilton, Jake Gardiner and Ryan O’Byrne. For all but O’Byrne, it was their first taste of post-season hockey in the NHL.
The Maple Leafs stuck to a line-matching game, and had a much improved breakout, owing to the skating of Gardiner, as well as the return of Cody Franson. The Leafs were able to cycle the puck and play in Boston’s end, something which did not happen much during the game last Wednesday.
“We didn’t self-destruct, we competed,” said Randy Carlyle, coach of the Maple Leafs. “It was easy to be better than were on Wednesday.”
The first period saw no scoring and ended with the teams tied with nothing. That was an improvement over how the Leafs finished the first period in the season opener, where they went down 2-1 after the first.
The second period had Boston taking the lead when a Milan Lucic shot rebounded off the foot of Nathan Horton and into the net. After video review, it was ruled a good goal, making it 1-0 for the Bruins.
The Leafs did not let Boston’s lead deter them, as Joffrey Lupul managed to net a power-play goal to tie the game back at 1. Lupul screened Boston net-minder Tuuka Rask while Jake Gardiner took a slap shot from the blue-line. Lupul was able to recover the rebound and shoot it past Rask to tie the game up.
“We bounced back; we have been doing it all year,” said Lupul to reporters in a post-game interview. “We’re able to refocus and bounce back.”
Lupul scored a second goal, off a rush created by Matt Frattin driving to the net. Frattin managed to get a shot way, which Rask kicked out onto the stick of Lupul, who shot it into the open net with a backhander.
“We were a threat all night, we shot a lot more pucks and went harder to the net,” said Lupul. “That will probably be the recipe for the rest of the playoffs.”
The second period ended with the Leafs up 2-1, and the third period had been underway for less than a minute when a Dennis Seidenberg shot was blocked by Mark Fraser and then Nazem Kadri was able to saucer it to a streaking Kessel. Kessel received the puck for a breakaway where he was able to blast it through Rask’s five-hole.
Boston responded to the Kessel goal with a slapper from Johnny Boychuk which found its way past James Reimer and into the net.
With little more than three minutes left in the third period, Mikhail Grabovski was carrying the puck into Boston’s zone with James van Riemsdyk , when he suddenly cut to the centre of the ice. Grabovski made a beautiful pass to van Riemsdyk who was able to slip it between Rask’s skate and the post, giving the Leafs a 4-2 lead.
The Leafs played a much improved game again Boston, with the new additions to the roster all doing their jobs well.
“I thought the guys played well that came into the line-up,” said Dion Phaneuf, captain of the Maple Leafs. “They stepped up and did a great job for us.”
Ryan Hamilton, captain of the Toronto Marlies, drew praise from Reimer as well. Reimer said that “he plays hard, and plays with leadership.” Reimer added that Hamiltion “is a great player. “
Van Riemsdyk said that the Leafs are excited to play their next two games at home in Toronto.
“It should be really exciting,” said van Riemsdyk to reporters after the game. “The louder it can be the better.”
The next game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins will be this Monday, May 6th at 7 p.m EST.