The Toronto Maple Leafs outshot the Boston Bruins 42-31, they won the Corsi battle 70-43, they did everything right. Except shut down the Bruins first line. David Pastrnak scored twice, and Brad Marchand had three primary points (1g, 2a) in a 6-4, gut-wrenching Game 4 loss at Scotiabank Arena.
The Leafs nearly completed a three-goal comeback in the third period on the back of a two-goal, seven-shot night from Auston Matthews, but they came up just short in the end.
Quantitatively, the Leafs didn’t look very good at the beginning of the game. They got called for a penalty and gave up the first two goals of the game. But qualitatively, they were skating really well from the moment the puck was dropped and the stars, primarily Mitch Marner and William Nylander, were looking great. Whoever they were with, they were creating chances.
On the first shift, Marner broke into the zone and set up Nikita Zaitsev for shot that almost sneaked by Rask’s ear. When Connor Brown took a holding penalty, Marner started the kill by going for a skate and killed a whole minute on his own in the Bruins zone.
Unfortunately, with five seconds left in the kill, a quick passing play by Matt Gryzlak, Charlie Coyle, and Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy was able to get around Kasperi Kapanen and scoop a shot up and over Frederik Andersen and into the net.
A few minutes later, the Bruins first line was just getting on the ice and they were coming into the Leafs zone. Zaitsev was able to stop the initial shot by Brad Marchand, but it hurt him as the puck went into the corner. McAvoy then pinched and threw the puck towards the front of the net from the corner and a smarting Zaitsev wasn’t able to hold up Marchand in time to stop him from scoring the Bruins second goal of the game.
Once the game transitioned to 5-on-5 hockey, Nylander really came out to shine. He was distributing the puck all around the offensive zone and nearly got a great chance himself from the side of the net. Rask had moved off his post for an instant, opening a hole, but was able to dive back the other way to deflect the Nylander shot with his shoulder. On their next shift, Patrick Marleau showed off some skill and was able to get a tricky shot to handcuff Rask. Brown came in immediately and almost wrapped the puck around the pads of the Bruins goal but he was hooked down and stopped.
In a pleasant turn of pace, the referees in this game chose to start calling penalties, specifically interference. Leafs got two power plays, one on Patrice Bergeron because Chara interfered with Marner somehow, and a second when Trevor Moore got held up in the neutral zone while trying to get on the forecheck. Unfortunately, Moore looked to hurt his shoulder on the hit as he get an audible yelp and held his arm as he went to the bench.
11 seconds after the power play expired for the Leafs, #11 on the Leafs brought the boys back within one. After a hounding shift against Chara behind the net, Zach Hyman was able to get his stick free long enough to tip a Morgan Rielly shot up and around Rask. It was a big goal that game the Leafs even more life as they headed into the second period.
Despite the score, and the fact that the Bruins were able to get four shots on goal during their power play, the shot clock after one looked pretty even. But when you look at the 5v5 numbers (aka the majority of the game) the Leafs looked much better than the Bruins. They had more shot attempts (18-13), shots on goal (11-9), and scoring chances (13-7) meaning they were in the offensive zone more, and they were getting to the front of the net better than the Bruins. The shot map of the first also agreed with this.
Right off the bat Matthews got the goal the Leafs desperately deserved on a solo rush. He did his patented move where he pulled the puck closer to him to get away from Chara’s stick, and was able to sneak his ripping shot between the elbow and body of Rask. Just like that, the Leafs had erased the unlucky start and pulled the momentum firmly in their favour. Or so we thought...
David Pastrnak scored his first of two goals in the second period when he and Marchand were able to get away from Jake Muzzin who pinched without the support of Marner and face only Zaitsev on a 2-on-1. Zaitsev stopped the initial pass by Marchand to Pastrnak with his skate, but Marchand was able to get the puck back and make it work on the second attempt. All Pastrnak had to do was deflect the puck up and over Freddy and in.
Pastrnak scored again a minute and a half later after Matthews got called for roughing McAvoy in front of the net. It was a pretty weak call, as both players were battling in front of the net. If Matthews deserved a penalty, so did McAvoy. (It was an even-up). Nevertheless, Marchand once again set up Pastrnak and he scored on the one-timer.
But again, once the Leafs got some 5-on-5 minutes under their belt, Mike Babcock continued to roll three strong lines against the Bruins in a really clever way and was able to take advantage of a couple well-timed icings to get the Tavares line with Rielly and Travis Dermott away from Chara, and the Nylander line against the third line and third pair for the Bruins. Both shifted produced some great chances, but the snakebitten Leafs just couldn’t get the bounced. Case in point, this chance by Brown. Argh.
After the two Pastrnak goals, the Leafs really turned it on and put together a really strong period. With the chances they got, the score should *at least* be within one, if not tied. The Leafs had way more shot attempts (32-13), shots (14-5), and scoring chances (15-7). They destroyed them, but only got one goal to show for it.
Then Marchand lifted Hyman’s stick and Chara was then able to do this:
With eight minutes left in regulation, Hyman got high-sticked by McAvoy and the Leafs headed to the power play...
AND AUSTON MATTHEWS BROUGHT THE LEAFS BACK TO WITHIN TWO ON A REDIRECTION IN FRONT FROM A MARNER SHOT!
AND THEN TRAVIS DERMOTT WAS ABLE TO GET THE PUCK THROUGH A MAZE OF BODIED FROM THE TOP OF THE SLOT AND HE SCORED TO BRING THE LEAFS WITHIN ONE!!
The Leafs pushed. And pushed. And wasted four minutes between 14:00 and 18:00 in their own zone and Andersen had to save their bacon. But with two seconds left in the game, Joakim Nordstrom scored on the empty net, ending the game. Bah. Argh. They were so close.