Early in the game on Tuesday night, it was obvious that the Toronto Maple Leafs had scoring power and speed in their favor, and the Bruins would need to be very careful in how well they managed the puck. Just over five minutes into the game, Connor Clifton’s errant pass resulted in a quick Leafs 1-0 lead when Colin Blackwell took a Jason Spezza feed and quickly deposited the puck behind Bruins net minder Jeremy Swayman. This would be the first of a dozen giveaways on the night, by the generous Boston team. Despite getting a quick game-tying power play goal from David Pastrnak (38) just 50 seconds later to tie the score at 1-1, the locals were not done with their somewhat sloppy play, allowing Morgan Reilly to also find the back of the net for a 2-1 lead. The Bruins were the victims again, nearing the end of the first, when a Clifton blocked shot opened the door for a Toronto breakaway, and an unassisted goal by Alexander Kerfoot and a 3-1 margin to close out the first period.
Toronto’s speed and skill were again on display in the second period as well, when their two top guns, Mitch Marner (28) and Auston Matthews (49) added their names on the score sheet. It took just a little over eight minutes of the second period for Toronto to score three goals to break the game wide open by a 6-1 margin. To their credit, Boston did not throw in the white towel, instead they showed some character, scoring the next three goals, one by Jake DeBrusk (17) in the second period with less than two minutes to play, and then made the game interesting by adding two more in the third period, with goals coming off the sticks of Curtis Lazar (7) and Taylor Hall (15), to cut the deficit to 6-4. With less than three minutes to play, Boston was unable to get the tie. For the regular season, the Bruins now stand at 0-2-0 with the Leafs, not the record they would like to show, especially when Toronto could be their first round opponent in the playoffs.
The bottom line, with both teams having come into the game tied, with exact numbers of 41-19-5 (87 points), the feeling were that this could be a close, tough game. It was a tough game, with Boston’s win streak ending at four games, and the locals were once again banished back to a Wild Card spot, as Toronto regained sole possession of third place in the Atlantic Division. As for the Bruins’ goaltending situation, obviously the play of Swayman was not up to his usual standards, having given up six goals, the most he’s allowed in his short NHL career. He was replaced by Linus Ullmark to start the third period. Swayman’s efforts for the night, six goals on 25 shots, were not the sole reason for the 6-4 loss, no more so than the sloppy unfocused play. Ullmark surrendered zero goals on seven shots, and will be in net on Thursday, for Boston when they host the New Jersey Devils, a plan that was likely scheduled already, and not a reflection of Swayman’s play. Regarding the dozen turnovers allowed, coach Bruce Cassidy’s precise game summary included, “Those are things, to me, that show a little bit lack of focus. Knowing where to go with the puck before you get it. A mark of good team is when they are on their toes. Looked like we were way too slow reacting, not on our toes, and more on our heels.” The lack of focus could also precipitate additional changes to the defense, as Cassidy will have several options available to him, in the form of defenseman Josh Brown, part of the trade that brought Hampus Lindholm to Boston, and possibly the return of Mike Reilly. Boston will have at least one more shot to beat the Leafs, as their final regular season home game will be played in Toronto on April 29.
Looking forward, the Bruins will close out their current home stand with two more games, they will host the New Jersey Devils tonight (Thursday @ 7:00pm) and then the Columbus Blue Jackets (Saturday @ 7:00pm) to begin a home-and-home, back-to-back confrontation, returning to Columbus on Monday (7:00pm) for the back end of the series, and the start of a four-game road trip. Next up will be the Detroit Red Wings (Tuesday @ 7:30pm), before continuing on the road to provide the opposition for Atlantic Division rival Tampa Bay (Friday @ 7:00pm) and end the road trip with the Washington Capitals on Sunday at a 1:30 matinee.