The Chicago Black Hawks did it. The Los Angeles Kings did it. Two of the last three Stanley Cup Champions closed out their first round series when the first opportunity arose.
With the Boston Bruins leading their opening round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, three games to one, and after the two outstanding performances they had north of the border, you expected a step on the throat, rip the heart out and put in a bag and give it back to them type of effort from the home team. All the anticipation of moving on to the next round of the war of attrition known as the Stanley Cup Playoffs
Instead it was the Maple Leafs that were doing the swarming and handing the Bruins their head and keeping their hopes alive of advancing. Pouncing on every move a Bruin would make and making life tough with 19 shots on Tuukka Rask in the first period. Had it not been for some spectacular saves by the goalie, Boston would’ve been in a huge hole.
Meanwhile the Bruins mustered eight on James Reimer who handed out a bunch of rebounds but were just out of reach for Boston to capitalized. And it remain that way for most of the night as Toronto’s Tyler Bozak would score a shorthanded goal, in the second period and Clarke MacArthur would score the eventual game winner in the third before Zdeno Chara’s shots from the high slot would create some late drama but would be the only tally the Bruins would score on Leaf goaltender James Reimer who looked beatable at times but stopped 43 Bruins shots!
Both Maple Leaf goals came off turnovers by Bruins defenseman. Andrew Ference on the power play mishandled the puck at the blue line which sent Bozak in on a breakaway as Ference tried but could not catch him. Rask got a piece of the shot but not enough. Then in the third, Johnny Boychuk attempting a pass to Nathan Horton at center ice never got it there and MacArthur gathered the puck in, went around Boychuk, cut in front of Rask and a 2-0 Toronto lead and it was the Leafs who had the killer instinct as they sent this series to a game six at the Air Canada Center Sunday night.
For most of the season we’ve wondered where the Bruins killer instinct was. When they left Toronto after winning games three & four, we were hoping that coming back home with a chance to clinch the series and send the playoff young Maple Leafs packing with a nice-thanks for coming-salutation. Instead Boston’s performance was uneven for most of the game and as we’ve seen a lot lately, the defense had problems getting the puck out of their zone.
The last 10 minutes of the game was the only time a killer extinct was exhibited by the Bruins. On their only score, they had Toronto on their heals as an icing call had the faceoff in the Leafs end. Boston had possession of the puck for 1:25 ending with Chara’s goal. They did keep pressuring the Leafs but could not dent Reimer who play well enough for the win and his defense cleared away the voluminous rebounds he left.
No longer having a stranglehold on this series, the Bruins must now try to close it out Sunday in Toronto where the Leafs have not lost three in a row all season and that raukus crowd will be in full throat.
Toronto has been given life and killer instinct or not, the Boston Bruins had better find a way to win game 6 because if they let them up for air a second time, it may be their heart, and ours, that gets ripped out.