BOSTON - The Bruins had their chance on Saturday night.
Trailing by a goal early in the third period, Boston was gifted a two-man advantage for over a minute after penalties to Toronto's Andreas Borgman and Dominic Moore. Boston, which had been carrying the play for well over a period, appeared poised to tie the game - and perhaps get more.
But the Bruins never found their footing on the man advantage and landed just two shots during nearly three minutes on the power play. Their inability to capitalize was a damaging blow as the Maple Leafs responded with Morgan Reilly's tally just over a minute after Moore's penalty expired to extend their lead to two goals, en route to a 4-1 victory over the Bruins at TD Garden.
"I think we had a few looks where we're mishandling the puck and I think it was more that than looking for the perfect play," said Patrice Bergeron. "I think we just weren't making the passes that were there and the lanes were there, we just didn't connect. I mean we definitely needed to have more shots, but I think it was more just not taking care of the puck more than trying to force plays."
Video: BOS Recap: Vatrano scores lone goal in 4-1 loss
Overall, the Bruins went 0 for 4 on the power play and landed just six shots on goal. After ranking in the top five in the league for much of the first month, Boston is now 1 for 16 on the man advantage over the last four games.
"It's almost like when we should take our set up we're looking to make plays, and when we're looking to make plays it's not good for our group," said Torey Krug, who extended his points streak to seven games (2-7-9) and landed a game-high nine shots on goal.
"So we've got to get in and obviously make better decisions and take better control of things. That's a big part of it. When you can't get in you can't get set up. It's tough."
Boston dropped both ends of the home-and-home with Toronto and has now lost three straight games and four of its last five. The Bruins have now lost all six of their games against Eastern Conference opponents this season (0-3-3).
"Obviously you need points, and [Friday] night we were a minute away, we just couldn't close and then tonight I thought we were right there for most of the night," said Cassidy. "We're frustrated - we're not discouraged. I mean, we're playing hard. You go through these lulls where you need to be a little bit better and if you're not then it seems to go against you.
"We've got good character and I think the guys will keep playing hard. Whether we get the results or not, we're going to have to execute a little better with what we've got in the lineup, we're just going to have to finish a little better."
Video: Bruins Post Game: B's Fall to Leafs
Boston had cut into the lead on Frank Vatrano's second goal of the season just 1:02 after James van Riemsdyk's power-play goal put the Leafs up, 2-0. Inserted back into the lineup for Jake DeBrusk after sitting out Friday night's tilt in Toronto, the winger planted himself in the slot and tipped home a Krug wrister from the left point. The tally came after Vatrano saw just 1:56 of ice time in the opening period.
"Defensively it's something I'm always trying to improve on," said Vatrano. "I was trying to use my speed as best as possible. Kind of looking for those areas - actually watching the wingers too that are in the lineup and seeing what [Brad Marchand] and them do when they have the puck. They like to hold onto the puck. For me that's something I want to do to, hold onto the puck a little longer and make plays."
Video: TOR@BOS: Vatrano scores on a deflection in front
Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs, 39-25, Boston had little to show for another solid effort.
"It was a 2-1 game for a while," said Bergeron. "It was a tight game. We had a lot of shots, we had a lot of chances that we have to score. We have to do the job and give our defense, give Tuukka some help with the offense. So, that's what I saw. They took it to us a few times, but we had some pretty good looks that we have to be better."
The Bruins fell into a 2-0 first-period hole on goals from Mitch Marner and van Riemsdyk. The first tally came off a costly turnover from Brandon Carlo when Marner ripped one top shelf over Tuukka Rask's left shoulder at 8:52.
"I had a bad night," said Carlo, who was also disappointed in his inadvertent screen of Rask on Toronto's third goal. "I don't know really what to say about that. I just tried to make plays and they didn't really work out. Ended up in the back of the net. Those things can't really happen all the time."
Toronto doubled their lead when van Riemsdyk tipped one home from the doorstep just seven seconds into a power play. The goal was the University of New Hampshire alum's third goal in two games against the Bruins.
"We can't chase the game every night," said Cassidy. "I don't think it was because of effort or we lacked awareness or were sleepy, all those things. We've been better at that. We addressed it, and we're getting better. In this building, we've been better, and tonight I don't think it was any different."
Video: TOR@BOS: Rask denies Nylander on a breakaway
Vatrano Bounces Back
In addition to his goal, Vatrano put forth a solid all-around effort in just over 13 minutes of ice time. The winger landed three shots on goal, finished several heavy checks (he was credited with two hits), and drew a penalty in the third period.
"He was good," said Cassidy. "Bounce back game for him. He kind of showed us, and everyone, I assume, that he wants to be in the lineup every night. He's certainly a guy that's had success in this league. We need him to play a certain way, and I thought he did.
"He scores a goal we obviously needed him to, but he finished some checks, he blocked some shots. We want a 200-foot game, and if that's what it entails from night to night, then that's what we need out of him. But he was definitely a positive."
Midway through the second period, Anders Bjork may have received the biggest wake-up call of his young career. The rookie winger was carrying the puck through the neutral zone when he was met by Toronto's Matt Martin at center ice. The heavy hit left Bjork on the ice for several seconds before he retreated to the bench.
Bjork missed a couple of shifts but returned later in the period with no apparent ill effects.
"I kind of stumbled a bit and just trying to settle on the puck, gotta learn from that and get my head up quicker," said Bjork.
Later in the second, Matt Beleskey let Martin know of his displeasure with the hit and the two dropped the gloves for a short, but spirited, bout.
"I really appreciate that, obviously," said Bjork. "That shows his character to stand up for me like that. I didn't tell him to, he just went out there and did it. That was pretty cool."