Maple Leafs Triumph Over Tragedy; Defeat Bruins 3-1 in Game 6 to Avoid Elimination

Toronto (3) Boston (1)

By: Gordon Brown

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Some say the fourth win is always the hardest to clinch in a playoff series and that same theory holds true in one’s quest for Lord Stanley…

It appears the Boston Bruins are beginning to figure that out in the least desirable way imaginable.

With the stakes rising in each battle that has followed, Monday night marked a pivotal Game 6 in the Original Six matchup between Boston and Toronto. The series has seen its degree of competitiveness progress throughout each passing game, serving as an indicator for a less-than-expected climatic ending. 

After exorcising their demons of 2013 and fending off a potential 4-1 lead collapse, narrowly escaping defeat at the hands of the Bruins in Game 5, Toronto returned home looking to avoid elimination once again—but with a chance to even the series at 3-apiece this time around.

Mike Babcock stood by his winning formula from Saturday and made only one minor lineup change in the form of Kasperi Kapanen’s promotion to the third line alongside James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak. As a result, William Nylander slotted in on the fourth line with Andreas Johnsson and Tomas Plekanec.  

I mean, if that fourth line doesn’t frighten you, I honestly don’t know what will.

On the visitor’s bench, Boston’s bench boss, Bruce Cassidy, said he was considering line changes on game-day but provided no hints as to what they may be. Patrice Bergeron left the ice ten minutes into this morning’s practice skate but was primed and ready to go for puck drop. 

Hockey was not the only topic on people’s minds after tragedy struck Toronto earlier in the day. A terrorist attack waged on Torontonians took the lives of 10 people and left as many as 16 people, likely more, severely injured. 

Before the action got underway, a moment of silence was held for those affected by the act of profuse terrorism.

The Maple Leafs were motivated to win for their home crowd and Ron Hainsey might have said it best in his own words, 

“On behalf of myself and my teammates,  we’d like to extend our deepest sorrow and thoughts to all the victims, the victims’ families, the men and women first on the scene, the brave men and women first on the scene, who do so much to keep everybody safe—thank you so much. Hold your loved ones tight. Give them an extra kiss tonight. I know I will because you just never know anymore. As for tonight—we’re going to play our heart out for this city.”

In fact, Hainsey and the Maple Leafs did just that.

Toronto found themselves down 1-0 courtesy of a goal by Jake DeBrusk to break the ice just 1:02 into the second period, however, it took just 0:35 seconds for the Buds to form a response. 

William Nylander broke his silence and tallied his 1st goal of the series to find the equalizer, effectively tying the game at 1-apiece. The Maple Leafs sounded off and immediately penetrated Boston’s zone after surrendering the game’s opening goal.

Upon entering the zone, Nylander lurked around the slot area until Nikita Zaitsev’s blast from the point was redirected on net by Nazem Kadri to create a rebound—which is where Nylander found the loose puck. 

The rest was history.

Before the Bruins could escape the period, they would surrender another goal at the hands of Mitch Marner. What appeared to be a harmless forecheck turned into something much more critical once the Bruins lost track of Marner, and better yet the puck, as he received it in the face-off circle before solving Tuukka Rask with a crisp backhander. 

Toronto maintained a 2-1 advantage into the second intermission and appeared determined to send the series to a final seventh and deciding game on Wednesday night in Boston. The Bruins possession dominance reigned supreme but they simply could not solve the wall that was Frederik Andersen.

That theory held true, proven once the victory was secured by Tomas Plekanec with an empty-net tally in the final two minutes of regulation time to seal a 3-1 final score. When it was all said and done, the Maple Leafs managed to salvage what was otherwise a lost cause to send this series to highly-anticipated Game 7.

Andersen posted 32-saves in his winning performance and earned First Star honours for the evening.

Although it was a very tough day for the city of Toronto and Canadians across the nation, the Maple Leafs proved to be a shining light upon a dark and tragic day in recent history.

On that note, the Maple Leafs will look to complete the comeback and continue to help the city triumph over tragedy in its darkest hour. Puck drop is set at 7:30 p.m. EST on Wednesday night.

Feel free to drop me a comment or suggestion:

E-mail - gordon@BarnBurner.ca 

On Twitter - @GordBrown_ 

Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs