Facing elimination, Boston didn’t panic when it fell behind halfway through the first period. The Bruins kept their focus, quickly tied it and took the lead, and then held off the Toronto Maple Leafs to force a Game 7 in their first-round playoff series.
Brad Marchand had two goals and an assist as the Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 4-2 on Sunday.
“We just knew there was a lot of game left,” Marchand said. “We’ve come from behind a lot this year. We weren’t fazed. We came together, played very hard after that. We played a really good game.”
Torey Krug and Jake DeBrusk also scored, and David Pastrnak had two assists to help Boston avoid elimination. Tuukka Rask stopped 22 shots.
″(We) gave ourselves another opportunity for another game,” Marchand said. “We got to try to replicate it. They’re going to come hard. They’ve played really well so far in our building this series.”
Morgan Rielly and Auston Matthews scored for Toronto in a series neither team has managed back-to-back victories and each has won twice on the road. Frederik Andersen finished with 37 saves.
“It is what is now,” Maple Leafs forward John Tavares said. “We’ve still got a good chance to win this series. That’s what our focus is on now. It’s over with now. Obviously we’d love to get it done today. It’s not the case.”
The Bruins will host the deciding game on Tuesday night.
The Maple Leafs, who lost to the Bruins in seven games in both 2013 and last spring, have not advanced to the second round of the playoffs since 2004.
“You try to forget the past, whether it’s this series or last year’s series,” DeBrusk said, “and understand they’re going to come out with everything they’ve got and so are we.”
The winner of this series will take on the Columbus Blue Jackets, who got the Eastern Conference’s last wild card and then swept a Tampa Bay Lightning team that tied an NHL record with 62 victories in the regular season.
Toronto, which took a 3-2 lead in the series thanks to a patient, stifling defensive performance Friday at Boston, is Canada’s last hope of ending the country’s 26-year Stanley Cup drought. The Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets were eliminated in their first-round series.
Toronto opened the scoring at 9:42 of the opening period on Rielly’s first of the playoffs. Having hit the post on an early power play, the defenseman took a pass from William Nylander and fired a one-timer short-side along the ice after the Bruins failed to clear the defensive zone.
Boston tied it on a man advantage 1:41 later when Marchand snapped his third goal of the series on a shot off a scrambled draw that hit Leafs defenseman Ron Hainsey and beat Andersen between the legs.
“When the season’s on the line you want to play hard, you want to leave it all out there,” Marchand said. “Sometimes it bounces your way, sometimes it doesn’t. Luckily today it bounced our way.”
The Bruins’ power play, which was held in check in Game 5, but was still 5 for 14 coming into this game, struck again with 2:58 left in the period. Krug got a rebound of Pastrnak’s shot and fired a shot upstairs on Andersen for his first of the postseason.
Andersen did well to keep it a one-goal deficit late in the first by making two hockey-card caliber stops on both Patrice Bergeron and Grzelcyk.
Andersen was solid, but could do nothing on Boston’s slick goal that made it 3-1. DeBrusk left the puck for David Krejci on a 2-on-2 rush before getting inside position on Maple Leafs forward Andreas Johnsson and making a diving stab at the return feed at 7:57.
The goal was the first of the playoffs for DeBrusk, who had six goals last spring — with five coming against Toronto, including two in Game 7.
“It’s obviously nice to get the result we wanted and it was nice to contribute,” DeBrusk said.
The Maple Leafs pulled within one early in the third as Matthews scored his fifth goal in the last four games as he took a pass from Jake Gardiner and rifled a shot far side on Rask at 4:15. Matthews was held without a point in the first two games of the series, and had just two points in Toronto’s seven-game loss to Boston last spring.
Kasperi Kapanen cut in off the rush seven minutes into the third, but Rask closed the door on the speedy winger to preserve Boston’s lead.
Andersen bailed out Rielly after a brutal turnover with under four minutes to go, robbing Pastrnak of a chance, but Marchand scored into an empty net with 1:54 left to seal the win and even the series.
“We’ve got a one-game series against these guys,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said, looking ahead to Tuesday. “We’ve got a good group that enjoys being together and plans on having a good run. ... In order to do that, we’ve got to go into Boston and win a game.”
NOTES: The 3 p.m. puck drop was something different for the Maple Leafs, who had just one afternoon game in the regular season. The Bruins played 12 day games.