TORONTO — Whatever momentum the Bruins had following their bounce-back victory over the Maple Leafs in Game 2 didn’t carry over as the series shifted north of the border.
The Bruins weathered an early storm from an energized Maple Leafs squad. But they were just a step behind in their execution as Toronto reclaimed the series lead with its 3-2 victory in Game 3 on Monday night.
Trevor Moore kicked off the five-goal second period on a rebound to give Toronto the early late. The Bruins bounced back shortly later on David Krejci’s tally, but back-to-back power play markers by Auston Matthews and Andreas Johnsson seven minutes apart put them in a tough spot.
Bruce Cassidy’s side showed some resiliency with Krejci’s tally and Charlie Coyle’s second of the postseason late in the second. But the Maple Leafs were a step ahead of every puck pursuit battle and capitalized on their chances whereas the Bruins didn’t.
Frederik Andersen held down the fort with 32 saves to secure the 2-1 series lead for Toronto.
“Took a few penalties we weren’t able to kill if you look at the difference in the game,” Cassidy said following the loss. “At the end of the day I thought it was an evenly played game. They were one play better than us, whether that’s a save or finishing. That’s playoff hockey though.”
Here’s what we learned from Boston’s one-goal loss to Toronto at Scotiabank Arena.
Special teams made the difference
The turning point of Game 3 came in the second period when David Backes and Matt Grzelcyk took untimely penalties.
The perpetrators of the crime weren’t as important as the end result. The Bruins penalty kill simply didn’t have an answer for an opportunistic Maple Leafs power play.
Matthews potted his first goal of the series just twelve seconds into Toronto’s first power play attempt on a defacto 2-on-1. Johnsson was all alone when he went top shelf on his backhander for the de facto game-winner with 2:38 left in the middle frame.
Meanwhile, the Bruins power play scored once on Coyle’s tally late in the second. But they looked out of sorts with their sloppy puck possession and zone entries during their three chances with the man advantage.
“Well they outscored us two to one. It’s a 3-2 game so that’s an accurate statement,” Cassidy said about getting outplayed on special teams. “Our kill wasn’t good enough for whatever reason. Our power play, our first group was a little bit off. Our second group chipped in, they did a real good job. Giving up two [power play goals] most nights is a recipe for what happened tonight.”
The Bruins power play scored in each of their three games. Their penalty kill didn’t allow a goal until Monday. But both special teams units couldn’t convert in crucial moments. They’ll need them to be in sync come Wednesday in a pivotal Game 4.
David Pastrnak needs to get going
Pastrnak’s swagger and skillset were in front and center during his career-year in 2018-19. But the 22-year-old hasn’t displayed any of that through the first three games against the Leafs.
It’s hard to remember the last time a team stymied Pastrnak like Toronto has this series. Pastrnak has been been a non-factor aside from his beautiful assist to Brad Marchand in Game 2. That’s a far cry from last year after the 2014 first rounder tallied 13 points during the seven-game series.
The swagger Pastrnak had going into the series has now turned into frustration. He admitted to such during his postgame interview session with the media.
“Getting a bit frustrated but it’s a long series,” Pastrnak said. “Going to regroup and focus on the next game. Spend more time in the O-Zone, hold onto the puck, don’t try to force things, take our time and our chances will come.”
The Bruins haven’t had the same offensive firepower — aside from the four-spot in Game 2 — during the first three games. Getting their young star going can only help that cause. Not to mention the likes of Matthews and Mitch Marner are firing on all cylinders on the opposite side.
Cassidy often says that the Bruins need their best players to be their best players. Pastrnak falls in that category. They absolutely need him to turn things around beginning Wednesday.
Coyle has been the best Bruin in the first three games
In a bit of a surprise given Boston’s talent and depth, the Weymouth native has been the best player on the ice for the Bruins this series.
Not Patrice Bergeron. Not Brad Marchand. And certainly not Pastrnak.
Coyle’s commanding presence on the ice gives a much-needed spark to the middle of the lineup. The former Wild forward’s two-way play has been a pleasant sight in Boston’s tough slate to open the postseason.
Danton Heinen’s confidence has taken a step forward with Coyle centering. He hasn’t been shy firing the puck on net and that’s something he struggled with during his sophomore campaign. Even David Backes — filling in for an ill Marcus Johansson — is finding a rhythm with Coyle on the third line.
Coyle was one of the reasons that the Bruins even had a chance. He’s been a perfect fit on that third line since coming over from Minnesota at the trade deadline.
The former Boston University standout is doing his part to help his team win. Now they need the rest of the lineup — especially the top line — to step up.
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