By DAVID SHOALTS
Thursday, April 18, 2019
TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs' big line of John Tavares, Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman were brought back to earth on Wednesday night.
After dominating the Boston Bruins' top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak last time out, they were spanked in turn on Wednesday night as the Bruins won 6-4 to tie their NHL first-round series 2-2.
The Bergeron line came back from a couple days of hearing they were no longer a force to take control of the game. They accounted for or were on the ice for four of the Bruins' goals through the first 46 minutes of the game, as the Bruins took a 5-2 lead.
As the halfway point of the third period approached, the Leafs looked as if they were already thinking about heading to Boston for the next game. The Bruins had them locked down.
But then Auston Matthews scored his second goal of the game on a power play at 11 minutes 52 seconds and Travis Dermott's shot from the point sailed into the net through a crowd a couple of minutes later and it was 5-4 Bruins.
The Leafs pulled goaltender Frederik Andersen in the final minute but could not finish the push. The Bruins scored on the empty net to finish them off.
It was an odd first 40 minutes for the Maple Leafs. They controlled the play for long stretches, especially in the second period, but coughed up a couple of bad goals on power plays, let the Bruins grab the lead again quickly after they managed to tie the score and found themselves trailing 4-2 going into the third.
Perhaps the Leafs and their fans should have known this would be a tough night when hiphop star Drake showed up. The Toronto native has become a notorious jinx for all of his favourite sports teams.
Over all, the Leafs were not terrible, but they did some terrible things that the Bruins pounced on. All that talk about the Bergeron line being silenced in Game 3 trailed off quickly in Game 4. Boston defenceman Charlie McAvoy got the Bruins started with a goal early in the first period, then Marchand scored on the power play with Pastrnak adding two goals in the second period, the first at even strength and the second on the power play. Zdeno Chara scored in the third period while the Bergeron line was on the ice.
Hyman, who scored the other Leafs goal, crawled off the ice late in the third period after a kneeon-knee collision. But he was able to come back and finish the game.
Referees Wes McCauley and Brian Pochmara set the tone of the game early with an iffy holding call on Leafs forward Connor Brown. The fans were not happy with the call and grew increasingly frustrated with others as the game progressed.
However, there were questionable calls on both teams and the Leafs fans need to remember all of their angst in Game 2 when the Bruins were allowed to run riot and buried the Leafs by a 4-1 count. The Leafs are better off when the games are called tightly in the long run.
But on this night they were unable to capitalize. The Leafs had two ineffectual power plays in the first period and allowed the Bruins to score on both of theirs.
The first Bruins power-play goal came on the Brown penalty.
The Leafs let the Boston defence work the puck along the point and then down to McAvoy in the right faceoff circle, where he had all the room and time he needed to bury his shot at 3:03 of the first period.
Marchand scored a few minutes later when nobody gave him a thought as he sneaked down the left side and converted a McAvoy feed. He was Leafs defenceman Nikita Zaitsev's man and it was the first of four Bruins goals scored while he and partner Jake Muzzin were on the ice.
But Muzzin and Zaitsev had lots of company when it came to coughing up goals. As noted, it was not a banner night for the Tavares line.
While the Leafs worked hard early in the second period to tie the score 2-2, they reverted to that group that could not play in their own zone late in the regular season and let the Bruins quickly move in front.
Hyman scored late in the first period to get the Leafs on the board and then Matthews tied the score early in the second with a strong individual effort. He gloved a high pass at the Bruins' blueline, moved in and bounced a shot off Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask and into the short side of the net.
It was just the sort of goal the Leafs needed. One star player stepping up when their big line was being outplayed by the Bergeron group. But the Leafs never took it and ran.
Pastrnak struck a couple minutes later and less than two minutes after that, scored again on the power play to put the Bruins back in charge.
Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask and Leafs centre John Tavares keep their eyes on the puck during Game 3 of their best-of-seven playoff series at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Wednesday. It was not a banner night for the Tavares line.
FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Friday, April 19, 2019