Nobody expected this playoff series to be over that quickly so it was a bit shocking when Boston beat Toronto so handily in the first two games at TD Garden (5-1 in Game 1 and 7-3 in Game 2) last week. Playing with basically their season on the line, the Maple Leafs responded with a much better team-wide effort in Game 3 on Monday at Air Canada Centre, a 4-2 victory to cut Boston’s series lead to 2-1. With an extra day off before Game 4 on Thursday (7, NESN), expect another entertaining tilt that could ultimately shift this matchup in a big way. The stakes couldn’t be much higher for both teams as the Bruins go for the split in Canada with the chance to return to TD Garden on Saturday night (8, NBC) hoping to have the Maple Leafs on the brink of elimination. Meanwhile, if Toronto can hold serve at home, they would tie things up to make it a best-of-3 series while also getting back one of their better players (center Nazem Kadri) who has been suspended for Games 2-4 after his brutal hit on B’s forward Tommy Wingels in Game 1.
Toronto’s offense utilized numerous stretch passes in Game 3 to wake up their dormant offense. The Maple Leafs scored first (for the 1st time in the series) on a power play goal by James van Riemsdyk. Later, young superstar Auston Matthews got his first point of the series on a beautiful goal and veteran Patrick Marleau’s pair of tallies were his first of the series. “If we’re just aware of who’s behind us, it’s part of their game,” noted Bruins defenseman Torey Krug. “They like to spring guys, get them going and let those young, talented guys do the work.”
Besides those forwards finally showing up, the other headline for Toronto was the play of goaltender Frederik Andersen (40 saves) who had been pulled in Game 2 after allowing three goals on just five shots. Boston peppered him (42-30 shots on goal for the game), especially over the last two periods where they fired a combined 34 shots to 18 for the Maple Leafs. His desperation paddle save on David Pastrnak (4 goals, 5 assists) in the third period was one of the best that you’ll ever see. Of course, you have to also acknowledge that the Bruins just didn’t shoot very accurately as they hit three posts in Game 3. After rolling to 12 goals in the first two games, the B’s were due for a hiccup offensively (Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were a combined minus-7 on Monday after they had 20 points over Games 1 and 2).
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Leafs left wing Leo Komarov had played on their first line in Game 2 but he suffered a lower-body injury so he was out for Game 3 and he’s already been declared inactive for Thursday. Toronto head coach Mike Babcock shifted his lines around with former Bruin and Harvard star Dominic Moore making his first appearance of the series in Game 3 on their fourth line. For Boston, forward Riley Nash returned for Game 3 and it sounds like defenseman Matt Grzelcyk will be back for Game 4 (replacing Nick Holden) after he was out for Game 3 with a lower-body injury of his own.
Penalties are usually few and far between in the postseason but the Bruins’ power play was downright explosive in the first two contests (3-for-6 in Game 1 and 2-for-4 in Game 2). Another difference in Game 3 is that the Leafs converted on their lone power play opportunity while the Bruins did not. All season long, Boston has bounced back from tough losses and adversity. We’ll have to see if that same script is followed by them in the playoffs.