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Five Takeaways: Leafs at Bruins - 02/04/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 6-5 victory over the Boston Bruins Saturday at TD Garden:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

Video: TOR@BOS: Matthews forces turnover, Nylander finds net

1. Bruins take first lead, but Nylander pulls Leafs even on a sequence started by Matthews' forecheck. The Leafs were looking to end a three-game losing streak Saturday in Boston, but they didn't do themselves any favours early in the opening period by surrendering the first goal of the game to the Bruins on winger David Pastrnak's 21st of the season at the 2:17 mark of the frame.

Fortunately, Toronto would get that marker back approximately nine minutes later, when winger William Nylander registered his 11th of the year at 11:15. The scoring sequence began at the Bruins blueline, when Leafs centre Auston Matthews did an excellent job stripping his opponent of the puck and quickly getting it to centre Nazem Kadri. He found Nylander streaking toward the net and connected with the youngster to get the primary assist on the goal, which was Nylander's second in his past four games. But make no mistake - none of it would've happened were it not for Matthews dogged pursuit of the puck on the forecheck.

2. Toronto takes lead midway through second, builds it quickly thanks to Nylander's hat trick. Toronto's struggles of late have seen them outscored in sizeable amounts, but it was the Leafs who jumped out to a big lead midway through the second frame - and Nylander was largely responsible for them, scoring two more times to record his first career NHL hat trick.

Winger James van Riemsdyk started the scoring explosion and gave the Buds their first lead of the night when he netted his 18th of the year - with winger Mitch Marner adding his 30th assist of the season on the play - at 8:31 of the middle period. Thirty-eight seconds after van Riemsdyk's goal, Nylander knocked home his second of the night, and and 68 seconds later, Nylander added his third of the game to make it 4-1 for the visitors and chase goalie Tuukka Rask out of Boston's net in favour of Zane McIntyre. Nylander's third was a power play goal for Toronto, who needed an offensive outburst like this after producing only five goals in their three-game losing skid.

3. Pastrnak's second of the game spurs Bruins comeback before second intermission. Trailing by three goals at the halfway point of the game, the Bruins were on their heels and in need of a boost to get back in it. They got one from Pastrnak, who scored his second of the game just 38 seconds after Nylander completed his hat trick, and Toronto's lead was cut in half in short order.

Boston then pulled within one when, on their third power play of the night, blueliner Torey Krug moved in from the left side of Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen and fired the puck into the net for his fifth of the year and the Bruins' third of the game with 4:07 left before the second intermission. In a passionate divisional matchup such as this one, you knew neither side was going to let a deficit deflate their effort the rest of the way, and there's little doubt the B's push-back was expected by Toronto head coach Mike Babcock and his staff. It was the third period's results that ultimately would decide the victor, and that was likely to be the case even if the scoring process Saturday were reversed and Boston held the lead entering the final 20 minutes of regulation time.

4. Slow start to third for Buds, goal by Spooner gives Bruins game-tying goal. The Buds managed only 10 shots on McIntyre through the middle of the third period after he replaced Rask, and that's in large part due to Boston's intense puck pressure that generated another Bruins power play - on Martin Marincin's third penalty of the night - early in the third.

Boston failed to score on that man advantage, but the momentum they'd built through that stretch put Andersen under the gun, and although he couldn't be blamed for it, Andersen allowed the game-tying goal to centre Ryan Spooner at 10:06 of the third. Simply put, the Leafs regressed to the form they'd showed in the three-game losing streak, failing to get important defensive zone-clears, making questionable choices with the puck, and allowing the opposition to beat them to loose pucks and in puck battles. They looked solid in stretches at times Saturday, but their overall defensive effort still needs work.   

 

Video: TOR@BOS: JVR nets late go-ahead goal through traffic

5. Brown and Bergeron trade goals in roller-coaster affair, but van Riemsdyk buries game-winner late in regulation to give Leafs big win. Despite being outshot 41-26 on the night, the Leafs managed to make the most of their scoring chances in the third: winger Connor Brown broke the 4-4 tie at 15:15 with his 12th of the season - and Matthews recorded his third assist of the night on the goal - and, after the Bruins tied it up again with a power play goal at 17:06, van Riemsdyk netted his second of the night and the game-winner with only 1:36 left in regulation time.

Toronto's overall performance left more than a little to be desired, but their resilience was crucial in getting back into the win column and providing them with some confidence heading into the final showdown of their current road swing Monday in Brooklyn against the resurgent Islanders. More importantly, the victory brought them within one point of Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division, and the Leafs still have five games in hand on the Bruins as they continue their push for a playoff berth.   

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