TORONTO - For the first 59 minutes of the game, it seemed the Bruins had finally put together a complete road victory against a formidable opponent. Leading 2-1 thanks to tallies by familiar goal-scorers Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, the Bruins looked to close out the game and earn a much-needed two points. But with the goalie pulled in the final 60 seconds of regulation, James Van Riemsdyk and the Toronto Maple Leafs snatched a point from their Atlantic Division rivals, and Patrick Marleau added the finishing blow a minute into three-on-three overtime - leaving Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and the rest of the B's scratching their heads as to how they let one get away in a 3-2 overtime setback at Air Canada Centre.
"With a minute left, it's one of those where you kind of let it slip by," lamented Bergeron. "It's tough, we have to learn from that… We have to take the good out of it but also realize we have to close games like that."
"We played good, but a few mistakes just cost us the game," added Marchand, who played 23 minutes in his first game back from an upper-body injury. "You can't be giving away points like this."
After a scoreless back-and-forth affair through the first half of the game, Bergeron opened the scoring 15 minutes into the second period with a one-time snipe from Marchand that beat Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen, who was frozen in his crease. It was a familiar connection for No. 63 and No. 37, who looked as comfortable as ever playing together in all situations of the game - as each racked up more than 22 minutes of ice time. But after Riley Nash was called for a slashing penalty in the final minute of the period, the Leafs capitalized on the man advantage, as Van Riemsdyk banged home a rebound from Morgan Reilly's point shot to tie the game at one goal apiece.
Pastrnak put the Bruins ahead once again 14 minutes into the third period, as the team's third power play of the game was about to expire. Torey Krug sent the puck in behind the Leafs defense, where Anders Bjork retrieved it and centered it to the front of the net, where Jordan Szwarz had two point-blank whacks at it, only to be denied by Andersen both times. But the second rebound came right out to Pastrnak, who finished it off and threw both hands in the air in celebration.
But the good feelings were short-lived for the Black & Gold. The desperate Leafs pulled Andersen and put six skaters on the attack in the final couple minutes, hemming the Bruins in their own zone. After a few failed clearing attempts, Mitch Marner's pass found the stick of Van Riemsdyk, who was camped out alone in front of Khudobin and easily deflected it past the B's netminder to tie the game.
Video: Bruins speak to media after their 3-2 OT loss to TOR
"The tying goal - three guys had the puck that we trust to get the job done and we didn't get it out," said an exasperated Cassidy after the game.
"We were soft on it. I can't sugar coat it. That's what happened. If you have to ice it that's fine - we're not against it in those situations… But we didn't get it out. They kept it in and made a play. Once you get that many guys around the net, you start to get fatigued. They got one more [guy] than us and they found him."
In three-on-three overtime, the teams traded chances for the first minute, with Boston gaining the initial opportunities. A puck came loose in the Toronto zone, Pastrnak chased to it and, with one man to beat, attempted a spin move around the Leafs defender. However, the puck hit the defender's skate, and with Pastrnak down on the play, the Leafs raced forward into the Bruins zone with a three-on-two advantage. Marner gained the zone, dished it to his right to Jake Gardiner, who found Marleau in front of the crease for an easy tap-in winner.
"I didn't get there in time to try to poke it through him and I guess it hit his skate or something," recalled Pastrnak. "It was just an unlucky play… trying to make a one-on-one move."
"Yeah you hope he makes a play, gets it to the net or protects it," said Cassidy of the Pastrnak spin move. "I think it happened quick, I'm not sure he expected to be in that position and then all of a sudden he's there. It didn't work out for us and they made a play coming the other way. That is the nature of three-on-three."
Perhaps nobody in the Bruins locker room took the loss as hard as Khudobin, who made 30 saves on the night against the prolific forward group of the Leafs. Noting that Toronto scored some "pretty cool goals" - all of which were from point-blank range - the B's netminder was visibly upset that his team couldn't end it in regulation.
"It's a tough loss," said Khudobin. "I think overall we played really well. We did a lot of good things. Maybe we didn't score enough, maybe I didn't save enough, I don't know."
The silver lining in Friday's loss is that the Bruins won't have to wait long to make amends, as Toronto flies into Boston for the second game of a back-to-back Saturday night at TD Garden.
"We've got to bounce back," affirmed Marchand. "We've got to let it go - we've got another big game tomorrow and we need to be good."
"It's unfortunate we got only one point," added Pastrnak. "I think we deserved two, but we can't let it bring us down. We have a new game tomorrow and I think we need to start the same as today."