Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy says that his club doesn’t chase matchups.
Instead, they chased the game, and while they came damn close to putting themselves back in front, it ultimately proved costly in a 4-3 Game 5 loss at TD Garden.
Powered by gamesmanship on the part of Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, who began his game with lines looking nothing like what the Leafs were projected to roll out following their morning skate just nine hours prior, Toronto blitzed Boston early.
Given a second chance on a net-front block by Torey Krug, Connor Brown jumped in and struck for the Leafs’ first goal of the night, scored 6:36 into the game. Andreas Johnsson then successfully got in behind Charlie McAvoy and beat an outstretched Tuukka Rask just 3:36 later to put the Maple Leafs up 2-0 midway through the first.
"It clearly wasn’t good enough," Cassidy said of his team's opening frame. "We let them get to the top of the paint for a couple of goals that we’re generally solid on. We had a couple of two-on-twos that turned into two very good chances, happened up there. So, clearly, we’ve got to address that. Those aren’t odd-man rushes, that’s not stretch plays, that’s just basic two on twos that we need to communicate better, square up better, defend better. Then obviously, you want a save, as well, mixed in in those, and that didn’t happen either. So, the stuff that we’ve done lately: defend, get saves, that didn’t happen early on. We found our legs eventually and fought our way back in, but the start wasn’t good enough."
For all their early struggles, and the feeling that this game was not going to be theirs, though, the Black and Gold finished the opening period with 15 shots.
They were finally rewarded for those efforts with a fortunate bounce David Backes’ way, as he swung and connected for a power-play tally 9:45 into the middle stanza.
But the Bruins were victimized by yet another stretch pass from the Leafs, and just 51 seconds later, as Tyler Bozak beat Rask to re-establish Toronto’s two-goal edge.
James van Riemsdyk added his third goal of the postseason just 1:19 after that (his usual power-play special scored right above the crease), and Rask’s night was done, as the 31-year-old hero of Game 4 exited with four goals against on just 13 shots faced.
"Probably could’ve stopped more pucks with my eyes closed," Rask admitted. "That’s about it. It’s on me."
"I didn’t think he had it tonight, so we went with Anton [Khudobin], who has been very good for us," Cassidy said of Rask. "And then there’s always that part, gets the rest of the team’s attention as well. So, it’s both. I don’t want to measure, quantify what percentage of each, but clearly if I thought he was on, then he wouldn’t have gotten pulled."
Becoming the first Bruins goalie to receive an early hook from a playoff game since Blaine Lacher was chased from Game 1 against the Devils in 1995, it was with Rask’s exit that the Bruins seemed to finally come to their senses and play.
Held off the scoresheet despite a 1:34 five-on-three power-play opportunity, the Bruins clawed their way back within striking distance before the end of the second period on the back of a great individual Matt Grzelcyk effort capped by a Sean Kuraly tally.
The Bruins continued to generate chances in the third period, too, and were gifted an early-period power-play chance when Travis Dermott ‘held’ Noel Acciari.
The Bruins did nothing for their fourth power-play chance in a row, but Acciari connected 5:56 into the third, and brought the Bruins back within one.
From there, the Bruins took over, and threw everything they could at Frederik Andersen.
Jake DeBrusk had a chance from in tight. Grzelcyk was all alone and fired a shot on. And on it went. Rolling Kuraly to Patrice Bergeron to David Krejci to Riley Nash, Cassidy continued to throw every line possible at a reeling Maple Leaf defense.At one point, Cassidy even elected to move Krejci to the point and roll with four forwards and one defenseman at five-on-five.
Andersen stood tall, however, with 42 saves in the win.
"He made some saves there, especially in the third period, some chances that we had that could have went in," Charlie McAvoy said. "So I felt like we could have tied it up, a lot of guys in here think that, but no sense in hanging our heads on that, we’re still up in the series and we’re in a good position and we just need to, you know, refocus here, take away the good, assess the bad and be ready to go for Game 6."
The Bruins get another shot at eliminating the Leafs at 7 p.m. on Monday night.
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