Bruins

Maple Leafs force Game 7 with 3-1 win over Bruins

Maple Leafs force Game 7 with 3-1 win over Bruins

TORONTO – Once again the Bergeron Line was held off the scoresheet and once again that meant a playoff loss for the Boston Bruins.

The top line had 23 shot attempts and a handful of scoring chances, but the Toronto defense and Freddie Andersen held them in check while the Leafs scored a goal with them on the ice in a 3-1 win in Game 6 at the Air Canada Centre.

The Bruins have lost two straight chances to close Toronto out early in the best-of-seven series and now it will come down to a Game 7 on Wednesday night at TD Garden for the right to play Tampa Bay in the next round of the playoffs.

MORE BRUINS: Talking Points: Marner lights it up while Pasta struggles

After a scoreless first period where the teams were feeling each other out, the offensive flurries kicked up in the second period for both hockey clubs. Jake DeBrusk scored his third goal of the postseason just over a minute into the period when he snapped home a shot from the high slot off an offensive zone face-off win from David Krejci. It was just the third even-strength goal for Krejci’s line in this entire series and one that was absolutely needed in this game.

Unfortunately, they weren’t joined by any of the other three forward lines on the score sheet.

Instead, the Leafs scored 35 seconds later to tie things up and immediately take the momentum back away from the Black and Gold. Nazem Kadri fired a long-range shot that Tuukka Rask kicked out for a rebound, and the puck went right to a wide open William Nylander in front for his first goal of the postseason.

MORE BRUINS: Bean: Bruins created a monster that could end their season

It appeared that Toronto had scored again a short time later to take the lead on a Zach Hyman goal, but a good Bruins challenge overturned the score after it was determined Hyman interfered with Rask prior to scoring.

The score stayed deadlocked for most of the second period until a misstep by Boston’s top line opened up a chance that the Leafs stepped right into. Brad Marchand couldn’t corral a loose puck in the middle of the slot after a partially blocked shot, and instead Mitch Marner snatched it away and snapped a backhanded bid past Rask for the go-ahead score.  

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NHL Power Rankings: Big shakeup in the Top 10 this week

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NHL Power Rankings: Big shakeup in the Top 10 this week

Sure, the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs are months away, but it's never too soon to look ahead, right?

The competition for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference could be tight, as several teams have surged forward recently, including the Flyers, Panthers and Canadiens — all of which missed the playoffs a season ago.

The picture is also crowded out West, where not many teams have started to separate from the pack as of yet.

How are the Bruins stacking up after a four-game losing streak? And which teams are making leaps forward?

Click here for Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings.>>>>>>

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David Pastrnak should be a lock in Bruins' shootout lineup going forward

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USA TODAY Sports

David Pastrnak should be a lock in Bruins' shootout lineup going forward

The shootout is a problem for the Boston Bruins, and already this season it has cost them three points. Now, that might not sound like a lot, but in a very competitive Atlantic Division that's shaping up to include five playoff-caliber teams, those points are quite valuable.

The Bruins blew a four-goal third-period lead Tuesday night and ultimately lost 5-4 in a shootout to the Florida Panthers at TD Garden. Charlie Coyle extended the shootout with a third-round goal, but it's Boston's only tally in 11 shootout attempts this season. Only three of the 26 teams that have taken part in at least one shootout have a worst shooting percentage than Boston. 

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy's shootout lineup was a real head-scratcher. Here's a look at the skaters chosen:

Chris Wagner: No goal
Brad Marchand: No goal
Charlie Coyle: Goal
Charlie McAvoy: No goal

The lack of speed and creativity with the puck made Panthers goalie Sam Montembeault's job too easy. Take a look for yourself in the highlights below:

The most curious absence from the above list is David Pastrnak, who leads the league with 16 goals and is tied for second place in scoring with 31 points. Pastrnak is just 3-for-19 in shootouts for his career, but despite this lack of success, he absolutely should be one of the first two shooters in this format, especially when the opposing team has its backup goalie in net, as was the case Wednesday night. The most talented players should be on the ice with the game on the line, and Pastrnak is without question the B's most skilled offensive player. 

Cassidy explained after why Pastrnak wasn't involved in his team's latest shootout loss.

"(Bruins goalie coach) Bob (Essensa) has information on that," Cassidy told reporters. "One thing Bob suggested -- we were going to use Wagner. There was maybe more shooters than dekers against this goalie coming in, but Charlie (Coyle) scored in the shootout shooting. You know, we put Coyle in and recommended shooting. Pasta tends to like to deke, so that’s why we went away from him. He’s been a little bit cold lately in the shootout, so give some other guys an opportunity that we feel can finish. Charlie McAvoy definitely has but didn’t happen."

Pastrnak has shot in two of the three shootouts this season. Jake DeBrusk has taken part in only one. David Krejci didn't shoot in the one game he's played in that ended with a shootout. Patrice Bergeron has zero shootout attempts despite scoring 70 goals over his last 147 games. Bergeron's nine shootout goals are tied for the team lead with Marchand since the beginning of 2012-13. Even defenseman Zdeno Chara deserves a look in the shootout with his powerful slap shot.

Let's be clear: shootouts aren't a new problem for the Bruins.

They actually ranked as the third-best shootout team during the 2011-12 season with 19 goals on 38 attempts, but it's been all downhill since then. The Bruins are dead last in the league with a 20.7 shooting percentage (49-for-237) in shootouts over the last eight seasons, including the current campaign.

We can complain all day about the shootout and say it's a gimmick, and that might be true, but the fact remains it's a very important part of today's NHL. The Bruins' lack of success in the shootout won't hurt them in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it could end up costing them the most desirable seed if the current trend isn't reversed soon. Consistently putting the most skilled offensive players on the ice would be a good way to remedy the situation.

Joe Haggerty: The root causes of this alarming Bruins skid>>>

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