BOSTON – The Bruins needed to bring their playoff-level intensity level with them to a must-win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
The Bruins battled and scored five goals including a Patrice Bergeron power play strike in the final minutes that should have been enough to get them to overtime. But instead they made one more crucial mistake late in the third period that led to a James van Riemsdyk wrist shot through a screen in front, and the Maple Leafs escaped with a crushing 6-5 regulation win over the Black and Gold at TD Garden.
The loss leaves the Bruins just a single point ahead of the Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division with Toronto holding five games in hand on the Black and Gold.
This wasn’t a terrible effort or one of those lifeless games on home for Boston, however. The Bruins actually stormed back from a three goal deficit in the third period on the strength of a William Nylander hat trick for the Leafs, and were brought back to life by an epic Adam McQuaid/Matt Martin heavyweight bout midway through the second period. McQuaid bloodied Martin before dropping him with a massive right-handed punch and three minutes later Torey Krug scored a power play goal to close it to a one-goal deficit for Boston.
That set up Ryan Spooner snapping home a rebound of a Zdeno Chara point shot at the doorstep to tie things in the third period.
David Pastrnak opened the scoring for both teams early in the first period on a five-hole goal against Frederik Anderson. Nylander countered with first goal of the game after a David Backes turnover at the offensive blue line, and then Toronto scored the first three goals in the second period to push to a commanding 4-1 lead.