Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 overtime win over the Boston Bruins Tuesday at TD Garden:
Small steps forward.
The Leafs’ problems producing offence in the opening period of games (and through 60 minutes of play, for that matter) are well-documented, but in their first post-All-Star break contest Toronto didn’t need 11 or 12 minutes to register their first shot on net; instead, they received smart and sustained forechecking, seriously tested Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask a few times, and finished the frame tied with Boston in shots (9-9). Yes, the Buds gave up the game’s first goal and trailed 1-0 heading into the first intermission, but the effort was there for each of those first 20 minutes, and for most of the evening. In short, they showed the resilience they’d come to be known for in November and December, and were rewarded with a victory.
Steps backward in the third period.
Toronto erased Boston’s 1-0 lead midway through the second frame and entered the third period with the game tied and a solid chance to win, but the Leafs dug themselves a huge hole in the third via a couple of sub-par shifts to start the period that led to two Bruins goals (Brad Marchand’s second of the night, and another from David Krejci) in a 26-second span. The Buds were able to climb out of that hole thanks to a pair of deflected goals later in the period and P-A Parenteau’s game-winner in overtime, but given Toronto’s woes on offence of late, they should know even a couple of bad shifts can be the difference between a win and a loss.
Komarov back in all-star form – and Kadri continues to impress.
The Leafs’ representative at the 2016 All-Star Game had scored only once in his past 16 games before Tuesday’s tilt, but Komarov deftly deflected a Morgan Rielly shot at the 9:02 mark of the third period to cut Boston’s lead to 3-2 and record his 17th goal and 32nd point of the season. Meanwhile, linemate Nazem Kadri was a physical force all night long – he laid arguably the hit of Toronto’s season on Marchand in the second period – and pulled the Buds even with the Bruins two-and-a-half minutes after Komarov’s goal. Kadri now has 11 goals and 27 points in 49 games – and considering he’d amassed just two goals and eight points in his first 23 games of the season, that’s a very good sign regarding his development in 2015-16.
Special teams deliver for the Buds.
A key issue in the four-game losing streak Toronto ended Tuesday was the effectiveness of their penalty-killing and power play units: the Leafs were giving up too many man advantages and not creating (or converting on) enough of their own, and opponents were making the most of that combination. However, the Buds’ PK crew killed off all four power plays the Bruins received, and Parenteau’s goal (his 12th of the year) came with the extra man in overtime to give the visiting team a 1-for-3 PP mark in the game. The Leafs want and need more of those type of results in their remaining 33 games.
Winnik starting to look more like himself.
Daniel Winnik has struggled for stretches of this season since sustaining an injury in mid-November, but the veteran forward got on the scoresheet for the first time since Dec. 15 when he redirected defenceman Roman Polak’s shot past Rask for his fourth goal of the year and the Leafs’ first of the night. The 30-year-old likely won’t match or improve on his career-best 34-point performance in 2014-15 – he’s got only 12 after Tuesday’s game – but is still an effective player at both ends of the ice.