January 15, 2014

Bruins' valiant comeback effort falls short against Leafs

By Jesse Connolly

Patrice Bergeron tumbles over Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier during Tuesday's game at TD Garden. (Photo: Sharon Bradley/New England Hockey Journal)

Final: Toronto 4, Boston 3

Recap: The B's and Leafs each tallied twice in the first 20 minutes of play, trading goals along the way. Brad Marchand opened the scoring with his 11th tally of the season, but Toronto answered less than three minutes later with a goal from center Tyler Bozak. 

After Patrice Bergeron banged a wraparound attempt through Jonathan Bernier by the near-side post to make it 2-1 in favor of the Black and Gold, Johnny Boychuk lost track of Bozak during a Leafs power play, and No. 42 in white made the B's pay. His ninth goal of the season and second of the night knotted things up.

The Maple Leafs rebound from an opening period that saw them get outshot 15-7, finishing the middle frame with a 13-11 edge in shots and 1-0 advantage on the scoreboard. Jake Gardiner's shortside wrister eluded Tuukka Rask to make it 3-2 Toronto with 7:09 gone in the period. 

Precisely one minute into the third, James van Riemsdyk's 18th goal of the season pushed the Leafs' lead to two. It was all Boston from there on out, as the Bruins dominated play. But only one of the B's 15 shots in the frame made it past Bernier (a fancy, top-shelf backhander from close range by Greg Campbell), as the comeback bid fell short.

Records: Boston 29-15-2, 60 points; Toronto 23-20-5, 51 points

Key Play of the Game: The B's dialed up their play a dozen notches in the third period and hit the 40-shot mark with 5:29 to go. Unfortunately, they struggled to hit the net from there on out. Bernier needed to make just one final save the rest of the way to seal the deal. 

Connolly's Commendations: Nice night for the Bergeron line, which got goals from its center and left winger (Marchand) and, along with Reilly Smith, was a combined plus-6 with nine shots on net.

Johnny Boychuk, who became a father to twins a few days ago, looked like a guy operating on little sleep when he forgot about Bozak on the pivot's power-play strike. However, No. 55 wasa force to be reckoned with this evening. He dished out a game-high six hits, none more exhilarating than a thumping of van Riemsdyk that was so explosive it actually blew the winger's glove off and into the stands. Boychuk was plus-2 and put four shots on net.

Connolly's Critiques: The first line's cold streak continued, as David Krejci (zero shots), Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla were all held pointless. 

As mentioned above, Campbell had a gorgeous goal to cut the Leafs' lead to one in the third, but that's not enough to keep me from pointing out he was on the ice with Dan Paille for both of Toronto's goals on the man advantage, in addition to Bozak's even-strength strike at 5:52 of the first period. 

Rask had no chance on Toronto's first two goals. I suppose if we're looking for the antonym of that phrase, he had every chance on the Leafs' last two goals. No. 40 has really struggled to put together back-to-back quality starts over the last month. This wasn't the followup to his 25-save shutout against San Jose he was hoping for.

Notes: Dougie Hamilton (mild concussion) did not play. Kevan Miller was in the lineup for a second-straight game. He replaced Boychuk out in San Jose. ... Bernier was 0-2-0 with a 5.67 goals-against average coming in against Boston. ... The Bruins have failed to score on their last 16 power-play attempts.

Final Thoughts: If the B's played the way they did in the final half of the third period, we're analyzing the opposite outcome of what we wound up with. Boston's play slipped in the second. They got a loud wake-up call in the third, but they simply couldn't overcome that brief lull, in addition to their struggles on special teams.

Next: The B's will pay a visit to Dallas to take on the Stars Thursday.

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ
Email: jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com