The Toronto Maple Leafs survived a Boston Bruins onslaught to ensure history wouldn’t repeat itself and live another day to force Game 6.
For fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, having the Bruins lead 3-1 heading into Game 5 at the TD Garden felt like returning to the scene of the crime. The two teams were in this exact same scenario in 2013, and the Leafs — against all odds — managed to force a seventh game. While this Leafs team is much better than that one on paper, it was still up to them to win Game 5.
Of course, the big story coming into this game was the return of Nazem Kadri. Many felt that his hit on Tommy Wingels cost his team the series when he received a three-game suspension. After seeing the Leafs in this hole, it’s hard to argue with that sentiment. But he had a chance to respond to his critics with a big performance. He had his moment in the first period, with a gorgeous assist on Andreas Johnsson’s goal that made it 2-0.
The second period was a penalty fest — at one point, there were as many as five Leafs players in the box. On their first powerplay of the second, David Backes cut the lead to one. Tyler Bozak responded 51 seconds later, then James van Riemsdyk got his own powerplay marker to make it 4-1 and chase Tuukka Rask.
But there’s that dreaded scoreline again. As if right on cue, the Leafs were determined to make things hard on themselves right after JVR’s goal. Two quick penalties in succession gave the Bruins a 5-on-3. Frederik Andersen assured they wouldn’t score on it, but nevertheless, they persisted as Sean Kuraly cut the lead to 4-2.
While the Bruins had another powerplay going into the third, they couldn’t convert. The Leafs’ penalty kill in this game compared to the rest of the series has been night and day. However, Noel Acciari scored to make it 4-3 and send the city of Toronto into full-blown panic mode for the last 14 minutes.
The Bruins outshot the Leafs by a whopping 20-5 margin in the third period, but they survived the flurry and sent the series back home. But despite the win, you could still argue the Bruins have the momentum heading into Game 6.
1. Frederik Andersen: Andersen hasn’t looked like himself at times in this series. His heavy regular season workload might have something to do with that, but if he plays up to the same level he has all year, he has the ability to win games single-handedly. That’s what he did in this game, making 42 saves and 19 in the third alone. Getting goal support from his offense goes a long way, too.
2. Ron Hainsey: Mike Babcock trusted Hainsey with the heavy minutes in this game. While that sentence would make any Leafs fan scream, he logged 26:06 including the last two and a half minutes of the third period. With all the penalties the Leafs took, he contributed to their enormous penalty kill and racked up four blocked shots. He’s had a brutal series, but the Leafs’ season is likely over if not for him.
3. David Pastrnak: Got to give credit to the opposing team in a one-goal game. Pastrnak had a game-high 10 shots in this game and for the second time this series, got robbed by Andersen in the third period. He’s still been the best forward in this series.
Puck drop for Game 6 is April 23 in Toronto. What happens next in this series is anybody’s guess.