Bruins

Maple Leafs take Game 3 over Bruins behind Patrick Marleau

Maple Leafs take Game 3 over Bruins behind Patrick Marleau

TORONTO – Well, it’s official that the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t just going to roll over and die in their first round series. 

After getting blown out in the first two games in Boston, the Leafs won a nip-and-tuck 4-2 decision over the Bruins in Game 3 at the Air Canada Centre where they were able to pick on the Torey Krug and Kevan Miller defensemen pairing, hold down the Patrice Bergeron line for the first time in the series and survive a couple more soft goals allowed by Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen. 

It was certainly a necessary step for the Leafs if they want to prolong the series while getting a foothold down 2-to-1 in the best of seven series, but the Bruins have to feel like this could have easily gone their way had a few things gone differently. 

The scoring started with a controversial twist as Riley Nash was whistled for a too many men on the ice penalty on a puck that clearly hit the glass before it went up and over. Frankly, the play should have never been a penalty call. Still, the Leafs scored seven seconds into the power play possession when James van Riemsdyk shoveled home the rebound of a Tyler Bozak testing shot on Tuukka Rask. 

That was all the scoring in the first period, and the only penalty called until a Patrick Marleau hooking whistle in the opening minutes of the third period. 

Instead it was a back-and-forth affair in the second period with Adam McQuaid scoring on a long distance shot to tie things up, and then 43 seconds later Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau were able to attack the Krug and Miller pairing. Zdeno Chara again came back and scored a bad-angle, top-shelf goal against Frederik Andersen that would certainly be in the soft category, but once again the Maple Leafs battled back.

It was Auston Matthews that once again snapped the deadlock and got involved in the series with his own short side snipe to the top shelf for his first goal of the postseason. The Bruins had their chances to come back in the third with a power play of their own very early on, but Andersen made a pair of sensational stops against David Pastrnak to keep the Black and Gold off the board. Marleau finished another chance on a nasty snipe in the final few minutes of the third period to ice it for the Leafs and give them life in the series.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

DeBrusk deserves credit as massive difference-maker in Game 7, series

DeBrusk deserves credit as massive difference-maker in Game 7, series

BOSTON -- There’s no longer any need to call 21-year-old Jake DeBrusk an NHL rookie anymore. 

It’s simply time to just start calling DeBrusk a big game player that shows up when it matters most after he put together a two-goal game for the ages in Boston’s 7-4 win in Game 7 over the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.

HAGGERTY: The Bruins are who we thought they were

It was DeBrusk that scored the game-winner little more than five minutes into the third period when he bombed down the right wing, twisted Jake Gardiner into a defensive pretzel and then pushed a quick shot past Frederik Andersen as he powered to the net while taking a hit from Gardiner after releasing the puck. It was a big-time play from a forward not named Bergeron, Marchand or Pastrnak, and exactly that little something extra needed to put the Black and Gold over the top in the decisive elimination game for the B’s. 

“I don’t get out there for four-on-four too much so I just went to the net and kind of caught their defenseman off guard right away with just my speed. Then I tried to make a move and actually tried to raise it, and I didn’t even see it go in,” said DeBrusk. “I just heard the crowd go pretty nuts and it was a very special feeling, especially making it 5-4 at that point. I knew as soon as we got the lead there the next goal, we were going to be fine. It was very special.

“It was special. It’s something I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget this series just in general. First playoffs and I was really happy to contribute, and obviously [Game 7] with the home crowd here too. How the game was going, it was back and forth, and emotions were pretty crazy…insane. It was nice to get on the board, and it was nice to help the team win.”

It was also the kind of thing that players, both young and old, need to do in the playoffs if they want to be consistently successful and effective at a time of year when the little things matter most. He scored the team’s first goal in the first period when he deflected a David Pastrnak point shot while camped down low, and then he landed the game-winner in the third by refusing to take “no” for an answer from Gardiner and Andersen.  

“He scored going to the net [and the] dirty areas. He had some chances tonight. So that’s always the first thing: Get into the inside, play inside, be willing to get hit, fight for your space, and that’s playoff hockey. It’s a little more difficult to get there,” said Bruce Cassidy. “They weren’t freebies, all of his goals. He’s around the net. He got a shot through the other night in Toronto, but the other ones here, he’s been real greasy, as advertised.

“He had his legs the whole series. The issue we had with Jake during the year was that consistent push, use your legs and use your feet because he’s young and he’s got them. He can really get on pucks and make people uncomfortable, so I was happy for him. He’s a good kid, he’s worked hard, and he’s really contributing for us.”

DeBrusk was the best player on the ice for the Bruins in Game 7 with his two goals and five shots on net and three hits in 15:40 of ice time, and he was a consistent force in the series with five goals and seven points in the seven games against the Leafs. Lining up against players hyped up by the Toronto media machine like Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner, it was DeBrusk that was making the clutch plays in the big moments. 

But this really shouldn’t be a surprise as the fiery, skilled DeBrusk has consistently answered the bell this season in the big moments. He responded resoundingly each time on the rare occasion he was a healthy scratch this season, and nobody will forget the way he took over his first game this season against the Islanders after being reminded that leading Calder Trophy candidate Mathew Barzal was selected right after him in the NHL Draft.

Now DeBrusk has added to that big game player legacy with a strong first playoff experience, and a glowing introduction to Game 7’s that Bruins fans won’t be forgetting anytime soon. He was also consistently the best player on his second line in the series vs. Toronto while using his speed, toughness, and tenacity to create offense around the net. 

“There’s something inside of him that not many guys have. He hounds the puck. He stays on it,” said Torey Krug. “We saw it all throughout the series, whether it was up in Toronto [on] that play he made where he’s climbing down the boards and three guys take a run at him, and he hits [David Krejci] back door.

“When he wants it he’s going to get it so, he’s a great player for us. You need contributions from your young guys, and he was a big part of it [in Game 7].”

When looking for another forward that was going to step up and help shoulder the scoring burden with Boston’s top line, most people looked at former All-Star winger Rick Nash or postseason standout David Krejci as candidates to step up and be difference-makers. Instead, it was a youngster that the Bruins wisely refused to trade at the deadline for Ryan McDonagh, and a solid, skilled winger that’s at the very heart of the B’s Youth Movement that’s been so successful this season. 

Those that have watched the Bruins all season know just how clutch and timely that DeBrusk is with his moments to break through and do something special, and now the rest of the NHL knows as well after watching him dominate a Game 7 for the ages.  

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Haggerty: Bruins are who we thought they were

cp-spark-haggerty-bruins-042618.jpg
AP Photo

Haggerty: Bruins are who we thought they were

BOSTON -- When push came to shove in Game 7, the Bruins were exactly the hockey club we thought they were.

Clearly they were the better team in the divisional playoff matchup with the Maple Leafs. That became apparent Wednesday night as they erased a 4-3 deficit with four third-period goals in a 7-4 win in Game 7. When it mattered most, all three members of Boston's Perfection Line scored goals; Jake DeBrusk netted a pair while outshining all the highly heralded young players on the Toronto roster, and the Bruins survived some truly concerning moments with their defense and goaltending over the first 40 minutes.

DJ BEAN

For the fans at TD Garden it was remarkably entertaining playoff hockey. For the Leafs, it was a sobering, painful dose of reality (and their second third-period Game 7 collapse in Boston in the last five years). And for the Bruins, it was confirmation of all that we saw over the course of 82 regular-season games. After all, they were the NHL's best third-period team all year.

In a very vocal dressing room between the second and third periods, with the Bruins trailing 4-3 and sitting a mere 20 minutes from elimination, their three most experienced veterans -- Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, who combined had more Game 7 appearances on their resumes than the entire Toronto roster -- drove that point home to their younger teammates.

"It didn't matter how long it was going to take. We were going to do the job," said Torey Krug, who scored the game-tying goal just 70 seconds into the third period. "It's kind of how we were all season long. Coming back, you know, in games and losing guys to injury, it was just kind of like the definition of our season.

"So it didn't matter. We were going to break them, and we were going to out-will them, and we did."

They did so against a goalie, Freddie Andersen, who had confounded them earlier in the series. They did so under the intense pressure of a Game 7 situation. And they so despite things not breaking well for them earlier in the game, as Patrick Marleau and Kasperi Kapanen scored soft goals against Tuukka Rask.

But the Bruins made it through waves of injuries and a hellacious final six weeks of the NHL regular season. In that spirit, they just kept grinding Wednesday night. And it's clear to see why they're regarded as a hockey team that won't be easily taken out in any series.

"That was one of the most incredible games I've ever been a part of," said Brad Marchand, who closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal in the final minutes of the third period. "It was so back and forth. The intensity from the crowd and the emotion was a lot of fun to be part of. But, even after they got the lead a couple times, we just . . . we knew that we have the resiliency in the room to continue to come back. We've done it all year, so we just try to draw on that. It doesn't always go your way, but luckily tonight it did.

MORE BRUINS-MAPLE LEAFS

"We've done it all year. [We were trailing by] only one goal. We didn't have to cheat to win. We just wanted to continue to play our game. We were getting opportunities and we just figured it was a matter of time and luckily, again, it went our way."

Well, strong third periods and hard-to-believe comebacks were definitely something the Bruins have done all year. Krug, Jake DeBrusk, David Pastrnak and Marchand helped author another one with four consecutive goals in the third period, stunning the Maple Leafs.

Toronto, with skilled young players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and others, was no easy opponent, as evidenced by its 3-1 record against Boston in the regular season. Getting past the Leafs was no easy task.

Up next are the high-wattage Tampa Bay Lightning, with the next series starting Saturday afternoon at Amalie Arena. The Bruins might not be the better team in this matchup, but they're playing with house money now after making a tremendous step forward in both an entertaining regular season and certifiably insane first round.

The one thing we know for sure: All is possible with a Bruins team that can come back from just about anything.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE