(WINDSOR, ON) – For the 5th time in post season play the leafs have had their play-off hopes, if not dreams, dashed by the Boston Bruins. Last night’s season ending 7th game, 7-4 loss, was no different, and almost as bad as their notorious 2013 7th game defeat.
This series’ win-loss pattern was identical leading up to the 7th game as 5 years ago the only difference is that Boston didn’t want to the last few minutes in the 3rd period to send Toronto packing. From the start of the final frame Boston clamped down on the Leaf’s seemingly well oiled offensive, erasing Toronto’s 3-2 with 2 goals of their own with the first 3 minutes that played resume.
In fact they prevented the Leafs from even getting a shot on goal for the first 8 minutes. Nor did that allow them any real scoring chances for the rest of the period – even when Toronto pulled Fredrick Anderson out of their goal for the extra man for the final 3 minutes of play.
Conversely, Marchand smacked home the Bruins 4th unanswered goal over the 20 minutes, squarely between the pipes of the Leafs open net to extinguish all hopes of miraculous and redemptive Toronto comeback.
To Leafs fans, whom have patiently waited now 51 years for Lord Stanley’s cup to return to cabbage town in the York of the Western hemisphere, is was also no doubt a merciless blow to Leafs nation’s notion that they could somehow even buy the cup back.
Especially when the very expensive purchase head office and coaching staff services of Brendan Shannihan and Mike Babcock (who respectively lead the Detroit Reg Wings to multiple Stanley Cup championships), equiped with one of the most high scoring offenses in the league and solid netminding can get past the first round in the Atlantic Division.
As is were on this climatic occasion Patrick Marleau uncorked a high scoring 1st inning, of this fast and furious contest, redirecting Jake Gardiner’s shot from the point, to give the Leafs their first lead of this decisive game.
Boston defenseman Jake DeBrusk responded by scoring his first of two on a deflection of a shot from David Pastrnak, to give Boston it’s first tally to even it up 1-1.
Shortly thereafter Marleau scored his second goal, off a sweet pass from Mitch Marner, beating Tuuk Rask top shelf, near end of the 2nd Leafs power play.
Then Danton Heien’s beat Anderson with wrist shot, after settling down a hard pass, from the game’s second tie at 2-2.
Finally after a brief scoreless segment – wherein the Leaf’s Morgan Reilly had his face cut by the puck, on a shot up and wide of the goal – Patrice Bergeron (#37) put Boston upon 3-2 at 18:30, off a pass off the boards behind the Toronto net ( before Toronto’s goalie Fredrick Anderson could figure what was going on) to end the frame.
After the intermission, with timely insights from Coaches’ Corner with Ron McLean and Don Cherry, the Leafs started the 2nd period with their after burners on scoring the tying goal, then Kasperi Kapanen racing into score another to put Toronto up 4-3 only 3 minutes in.
Which was their 4th goal on only 15 shots; perhaps signally an early departure for Tuuk Rask for the 2nd time in this grudge match of a series. But the Boston coaching staff fought off the temptation and saved Rask the humiliation.
The gamble paid off, because instead of continuing the scoring race, both teams suddenly clamped down defensively and very aggressively. Namely Nazem Kadri got a way with a cross checking warning at 16:25 instead of earning a trip to the clinker that would’ve put the Bruins on an untimely power play.
Shortly thereafter McKavoy took Zack Hyman down with a griping headlock behind the Bruins net, trying to slow down the Mathews and Brown line. Yet no whistle was called as the officials obviously decided to let the two teams determine the outcome of this one.
On the other end on the next play DeRusk elbowed Fredrick Anderson in the head, to instigate a two way slug fest in front of the linesmen who also continue sucking on his whistle as he watched them at close range.
After Boston being completely scoreless in the 2nd period, the Bruins Torey Krug (#47) got both teams back to playing hockey by blasting a long slap shot from the point past Fredrick with just over 1 min gone, catching the otherwise sensational net minder off guard to make it 4-4.
Almost immediately, as tension heighten from the change in fortunes Tyler Bozak and Riley Nash had offsetting penalties near the 16 minute mark, as the battle for momentum and territory began to match the same intensity from the first two periods with the games fourth tie.
When the 4 on 4 play got under way, DeRusk (#74) signalling an abrupt turn of momentum for dominance practically carried Jake Gardiner on his back to an unassisted goal thru the 5 hole of Anderson, just before he could get his pads down to make it 5-4.
The bleeding only got worse from there, as the Leafs hadn’t had a shot on goal for an 8 minute stretch since the opening whistle of the final segment. Nor did they have a clear shot on goal the rest of the period.
Noticeably, that includes team captain Aston Mathews who skated off the ice head held low, having not registered any substantial stats on a night when he had to do or die.
As the curtain closed on a dismal end to only his second season, his involuntary mentors, Bruins captains Zdeno Chara and Patrice Beregon made certain to leave the ice last ( as two of the most experienced and decorated play-off players currently in the NHL ) congratulated each of their teammates for a battle very well fought and won.
Long after the ice surface was clear of players and coaches alike the exuberant Bostons were will still packed in the house screaming in ecstasy having down their part in repelling the blue rip tide that had vengefully rolled into New England yet again.
While the Leafs must turn inward to see what else then can tweak to get over the first round jinx next year, the Bruins now have to turn their attention to solving the Tampa Bay Lighting in the round 2 conference semi-finals starting this Saturday.