Thursday, April 19, 2018
Following a crucial win in Game 3, the Maple Leafs entered Thursday looking to even the series at 2-apiece on home ice in Game 4 before sending it back to Boston. Although it was not a do-or-die situation, Toronto would like to avoid going back to Beantown down 3-games-to-1.
It sufficed to say time was not of the essence for a young Maple Leafs team looking to stay alive in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Simply put, a Toronto victory would tie the series at 2-apiece, leaving a best 2-out-of-3 to decide who moves on. A loss would send them back to Boston facing a First Round knockout for the second season in-a-row.
Auston Matthews and William Nylander had been snakebitten in Games 1 and 2 before combining for the game-winner on Monday night’s 4-2 victory in Game 3. A sigh of relief emanated throughout Leafs Nation as their young guns have begun to heat up alongside Mitch Marner, who entered the evening tied for the team-high in points—with 4 points (1G, 3A).
It also marked the final game of Nazem Kadri’s three-game suspension, who will be a welcomed addition back to the lineup despite Tomas Plekanec’s ability to fill in.
The best-of-seven series between either Original Six rivals have been heating up with each progressive game, Toronto and Boston are in an all-out war, however, the Bruins would be without one of their best troops in Patrice Bergeron.
To the surprise of Maple Leaf fans, news that Bergeron would miss the game with an upper-body injury emerged less than an hour before puck drop. There was no indication of this prior to game-time.
It took all but 0:28 seconds for the Bruins to break the ice and take a 1-0 advantage on the front of the Maple Leafs faithful. Krug’s quick strike from the point ended up behind Frederik Andersen on the first shot of the night and put a dent into Toronto’s hopes of moving on from the get-go.
Toronto managed to respond later in the period with a one-timer courtesy of Tomas Plekanec’s 1st goal as a member of the blue and white. All it took was Mitch Marner on his hands and knees but he managed to dish the puck over to Patrick Marleau, who passed off to the grizzled veteran—who made no mistake and notched the equalizer.
Plekanec’s promotion in place of the suspended Nazem Kadri has proven effective—but would it be enough to fend off the pending Bruins’ attack?
As the second frame rolled around, Boston’s top line was back at it again even without Patrice Bergeron down the middle.
David Pastrnak received a feed from Adam McQuaid for a 2-on-1 break with Brad Marchand at his side, where Marchand potted his 2nd tally of the series. The 21-year-old recorded his 10th point of the series after setting up Marchand, who scored to put Boston on top 2-1 with three minutes remaining in the second period.
Brad Marchand flexed his frequent Leaf-killer prowess and stunned the home crowd before signalling the second intermission.
A valiant push proved to be ineffective as Boston went on to add an insurance marker courtesy of Jake DeBrusk, who also posted his 2nd tally of the series—which proved to be the game-clinching dagger.
Unfortunately, the Maple Leafs proved unable to stage a comeback and fell by a final score of 4-2 despite commanding a 66.67 CF% and a 38-20 advantage in scoring chances. It might be true that stats don’t tell everything—but Toronto simply couldn’t solve Tuukka Rask when it mattered most.
Down 3-games-to-1, the Maple Leafs will have to fight for their survival come Saturday when the series shifts to Boston for Game 5. It isn’t a stretch to believe Toronto can string together three-straight wins, however, it seems like a high task against a Bruins team on home ice. On the bright side, all Toronto has to do is steal a win on the road and take the situation from there.
Sounds easy enough, no?
Puck drop is set at 8:00 p.m. EST on Hockey Night in Canada.
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Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs