James van Riemsdyk scored twice for Toronto, including the game-winning goal with 1:36 left, as the Leafs defeated the Bruins 6-5 on Saturday night in a wild contest at TD Garden.
van Riemsdyk came from behind the net into an open spot in the right circle, and roofed a wrist shot over backup goalie Zane McIntyre for the last of the 11 goals scored. McIntyre entered the game midway through the second period, after starter Tuukka Rask allowed four goals on just 14 shots faced.
William Nylander added his first career hat trick for Toronto, who scored three goals in less than two minutes in the second period to take a 4-1 lead to knock Rask out of the game. Boston tallied three straight goals to tie the game at 4-4, but could never take the lead in a game that they desperately needed to win.
Boston will play just three games in the next two weeks, with their bye week coming after next Sunday’s home game against the Canadiens. Every team behind them in the playoff race has multiple games in hand, so points are at a premium during this lull in the schedule.
David Pastrnak had two goals and an assist for the B’s, with Patrice Bergeron (goal and two assists) and Zdeno Chara (three assists) joining him as Bruins’ with three-point games. Torey Krug and Ryan Spooner also scored for the B’s, who dropped below .500 on home ice yet again (12-13-0).
Turnovers led to the first two goals of the game, as each team made a play at neutral ice to spring a quick break for their first tallies. Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly was unsuccessful in a pass near the blue line entering the Boston zone to forward Zach Hyman, as Chara claimed the loose puck to begin the scoring play. Chara fed Bergeron, who returned to the ice after leaving Wednesday’s game at Washington with a bone bruise, and the perennial Selke Award nominee found Pastrnak in the right circle. Pasta went five-hole on Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen for his 21st goal of the season to give Boston a 1-0 lead just 2:17 into the game.
The B’s went on a power play with nine minutes elapsed in the first period, and the Leafs countered with their own takeaway and goal just 15 seconds after returning to even strength to even the score at 1-1. David Backes had his pocket picked by rookie Auston Matthews just past the blue line, and the speedy Leafs quickly turned defense into offense for an easy score. Matthews found Nazem Kadri across the blue line, and Kadri beat two defenders before threading a nice backhand pass across the crease to Nylander, who decked Rask before tucking the puck in the open net for his 11th tally of the season.
In the blink of an eye, the Leafs took a tie game and blew it open, with three goals in a span of 1:46 in the middle of the second period. James van Riemsdyk was the beneficiary of a turnover in the Bruins end by defenseman Adam McQuaid, as his pass to Bergeron was errant and intercepted by Mitch Marner, who saw van Riemsdyk near the crease for the goal. Nylander added two more goals to earn his first career hat trick, as he took another turnover – this one from Kevan Miller – all the way in on Rask for goal number two, and notched his third goal on the power play for Toronto’s three-goal lead.
Boston responded with a goal just 38 seconds after Nylander’s third, as Chara’s wrist shot from the blue line was tipped by Bergeron before being stopped by Andersen. The rebound went directly to Pastrnak at the corner of the net, and he buried it for his second goal of the evening to cut the deficit to two.
The TD Garden was jumping after a tremendous bout from McQuaid and fellow pugilist Matt Martin. Martin took offense to a hit McQuaid but on Matthews against the boards, and the two fighters engaged in a lengthy fight before McQuaid dropped Martin. The B’s translated that energy into another power play goal, as the lethal man advantage exhausted the Leafs’ penalty killers. Pastrnak was able to find Krug across ice, and the defenseman made a strong move to get close to the net before going five-hole on Andersen to make it 4-3.
Another terrible rebound from Andersen led to the game-tying goal halfway through the third period. Dominic Moore drew two defenders as he worked down the boards in the Toronto zone before dropping the puck back to Chara. Chara’s shot was stopped by Andersen but Spooner was on the doorstep for his eighth goal to tie it up at 4-4.
The Leafs regained the lead with 4:45 remaining in regulation, as a failed break up ice for Boston turned into a goal from Connor Brown to make it 5-4. Brown’s goal was set up by Matthews and Hyman, as the B’s defense lost Brown streaking down the center of the zone.
Boston went on the power play with 3:19 left in the third, and tied the game again at 5-5 on Bergeron’s 13th tally of the year. Krug’s shot from the blue line went off of Bergeron’s body before it got to the net, and Bergy took the puck to the front of the net for his third point of the game.
The elation at the Garden was short-lived, as van Riemsdyk’s game-winner gave the Maple Leafs their third win in as many meetings this season against the Bruins.
The win puts the Leafs just one point behind the Bruins for the final playoff spot in the East, with Toronto having five games in hand over the Bruins.
Boston has four days off until their next game on Thursday night, as they will host the Pacific Division’s best team, the San Jose Sharks, at 7pm.
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