From the opening faceoff, the Boston Bruins lacked a killer instinct.
With their season on the line, the Toronto Maple Leafs came into Friday’s Game 5 playing desperate hockey. The Black and Gold, meanwhile, simply didn’t match their desperation.
A slow start, sloppy turnovers and a stellar performance from goaltender James Reimer (43 saves) lifted the Leafs to a 2-1 victory and extended the series to a sixth game Sunday night.
“We were expecting them to come out hard and they did and we didn’t match it,” Patrice Bergeron said about the loss. “It’s disappointing, but at the same time it’s still a series and we need to make sure that we come out ready [in Game 6].”
It sure seemed that the Bruins weren’t prepared for the Leafs attack.
While Tuukka Rask continued his stellar play with 32 saves in the losing effort, the Bruins simply could not help him out. Things grew worse when they were outshot 19-8 in the opening 20 minutes.
Even though the B’s slightly improved in the second and created some chances on Reimer, the energy was not there. That was seen in the two unforced turnovers that led to goals by Tyler Bozak (at 11:27 of the second) and Clarke MacArthur (1:58 into the third).
“I think we just weren’t prepared,” said Brad Marchand, who didn’t tally a single shot in 19:16 of ice time. “Maybe we thought it was going to be a little easier than it was going to be. They came out very hard and really put a lot of pressure on us and we weren’t ready.”
Despite the slow start, the Bruins made things interesting for the final two periods and outshot the Leafs 36-14. Captain Zdeno Chara finally got his team off the schneid with his first of the postseason at 11:12 of the third period, but the frustrations against Reimer and company grew considerably as the game went on.
There’s no denying that Reimer played his best game of the postseason making stellar saves all night, including one on Bergeron early in the second. But several Bruins shot themselves in the foot with their missed opportunities, including Tyler Seguin who missed a wide open net and Johnny Boychuk hitting the post; both coming in the third period.
Late in the game, the Bruins had a golden chance to tie the game when Bozak took a delay of game penalty. But the power play failed to convert again, and couldn’t get the equalizer with Rask pulled for the extra attacker in the last 71 seconds.
“We had a lot of jump. We needed that one goal, which we got, and we were obviously looking for the second one,” said Chara, who tallied 28:06 of ice time. “But we’ve got to put it behind us and get ready for the next game.”
It’s no secret that the Bruins have struggled closing out series under head coach Claude Julien. But after botching tonight’s attempt to finish the series – and get a few days of rest – they will have to go to the Air Canada Centre to try to close out the series on Mother’s Day.
Another botched attempt from Julien and company would put all the pressure back on the Bruins for Game 7 Monday night (if necessary) at the TD Garden.
“If there’s anything to understand from this, it’s that we’ve got to play three periods like we did in the third. We expect to close this off,” Julien said.
“We have to lick our wounds tonight and get ready for the next game.”