It was 4-1, but it wasn’t a Bruins comeback
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Toronto Maple Leafs had a three-goal lead on the Boston Bruins. A 4-1 lead to be exact at TD Garden.
Four notable differences from Saturday’s outcome and that memorable Game 7 night in 2013. One: Tuukka Rask, starting his 12th straight game, was pulled after allowing the fourth Maple Leafs goal on William Nylander’s first career hat trick completed at 10:55 of the second period. Two: this happened in Game 52 of the Bruins’ 2016-17 regular season and not Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Playoff series. Three: Mike Babcock behind the Leafs bench after replacing Randy Carlyle in 2015.
Four: The Maple Leafs found a way to come away with a pivotal win at TD Garden.
Despite clawing their way back to tie things up, the Bruins couldn’t escape their own shadow. Defensive breakdowns and sloppy puck possession haunted the B’s all night long and reared its ugly head when the Leafs responded with two goals in a span of 3:09 after the Bruins tied it up on two occasions. Neither Rask nor Zane McIntyre could make a game-changing stop.
All while Adam McQuaid gave his team a spark with arguably the NHL’s fight of the year against Matt Martin that ended with a McQuaid knockout. All while Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand carried the team with a combined seven points on the evening. All while the ever-improving Bruins power play scored a pair of goals.
And all while Pastrnak, Torey Krug and Ryan Spooner erased that 4-1 deficit during the Bruins best 20-minute stretch between the middle of the second and third periods.
“It was a heartfelt game,” said captain Zdeno Chara, who tallied three assists and 18:05 of ice time. “We found a way to comeback, and we played some good hockey. But again, little things and little details cost us.”
The frustrating 6-5 loss in a game the Bruins needed to have trumped all the positives of that attempt to relive a memory from four years ago. Instead, the realization of a third straight season without postseason hockey grew even more as the Leafs – with five games in hand – pulled themselves within one point of the Black and Gold for third place in the Atlantic Division.
“Any game you give up [a chance to win] like that, especially when you fight your way back, it’s always tough,” said Bergeron, who scored his 13th of the season at 17:06 of the third to tie things up at 5-5 only to see the Leafs answer with James van Riemsdyk’s game-winner 1:18 later.
The Bruins have four days off before a stretch of three games in four days – all at home – starting Thursday against the Sharks. The bye week will come after next weekend’s slate featuring the Canucks and Canadiens.
Their time off may be needed to heal their bodies, but in all likelihood, the Bruins will be watching the Leafs and other teams in the Eastern Conference standings pass them by.
“You have to find a way to be back at it and be even better for the next day,” Bergeron added. “We have four days that we’re going to use to our advantage and be ready [for San Jose].”
Somehow, the Bruins have to find a memorable run with 27 games left in their regular season.