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Five Takeaways - Leafs vs. Bruins - 03/20/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins Monday at Air Canada Centre:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

Rielly's scrappy tally

BOS@TOR: Rielly puts home his own rebound with knee

Morgan Rielly's initial backhand is denied by Tuukka Rask, but he taps home the rebound with his knee while sliding to the ice in the 1st

  • 01:14 •

1. Bruins take first lead, but Rielly's rush leads to tying goal. This was a crucial showdown between two division rivals jostling for a playoff berth in a tight Eastern Conference race, and it showed right from the start of the game, as both sides were physical and passionate. And while the Bruins got the first goal of the night - on centre David Backes' 16th of the season at 7:26 of the opening period - the Leafs pushed back and got the game-tying marker at 14:05 of the frame when blueliner Morgan Rielly netted his sixth of the season (and his third in his past five games).

After a terrific start to the sequence by winger Mitch Marner - who registered his team-leading 39th assist of the year on the play - Rielly jumped into the action, went to his backhand for a shot on goalie Tuukka Rask, and then had the rebound ricochet off him and into Boston's net. It was a reward for Rielly, who is looking more comfortable and confident getting involved in the offence than at any point in his four-year NHL career. The Bruins game marked the 301st regular-season game of Rielly's career, and at age 23, the best for him is still to come.

Video: BOS@TOR: Andersen uses his left pad to deny Krug

2. Both sides trade chances in second frame, but both goalies come up big. The Leafs and Bruins came at each other hard in the second frame, but thanks to Rask and counterpart Frederik Andersen, neither Boston nor Toronto was able to take the lead heading into the final regulation period. This was not for lack of chances - after being outshot by the Buds 11-8 in the first 20 minutes, the Bruins outshot the Leafs 12-10 in the second - but each team was facing a veteran netminder who understood full well the importance of the contest and played accordingly.

Video: BOS@TOR: Bozak gives Leafs a late lead with PPG

3. Bozak nets power play marker late in third, Nylander adds insurance goal with Bruins net empty. The two sides again played a tough, back-and-forth affair for most of the third period, but with 2:54 left in regulation, Boston centre Dominic Moore was called for interference on winger Nikita Soshnikov, and Toronto's dangerous power play quickly went to work: centre Tyler Bozak scored his 17th of the year at the 18:03 mark, and the ACC crowd erupted in joy as the Leafs took a 2-1 lead.

The Bruins wasted no time in pulling Rask for the extra attacker after Bozak's goal, but Andersen held up his end of the bargain between Toronto's pipes, and winger William Nylander corralled the puck and fired it into the empty net to record his 19th of the season and give the Leafs a 3-1 lead with 1:13 remaining. Leafs Nation was as loud as it had been all year, and it had good reason to be: the Buds just grinded out a vital win over a team they can still catch and pass in the standings, and the win gave Toronto a season sweep over the Bruins.

Video: BOS@TOR: Andersen battles to deny multiple attempts

4. Kadri knocks in another insurance goal, and Andersen shines at other end once again. The Bruins went back to pulling Rask after Nylander's goal, and Toronto made them pay for it yet again. This time, it was centre Nazem Kadri who put the puck in the empty net at the 19:09 mark for his 29th of the year - and although Boston got their second of the night on a goal from Moore with 10 seconds remaining in the third, it was a case of too little, too late for the Bruins, who now lead the Leafs by one point for third place in the Atlantic Division (with Toronto holding a game in hand on them).

Meanwhile, Andersen stopped 32 of 34 Boston shots (including 13 of 14 in the third) to win his 29th game of the year for the Leafs, who have one day without a game Tuesday before playing back-to-back road-and-home contests Wednesday and Thursday against Columbus and New Jersey respectively. It's been said often in this column, but Andersen consistently shines for his team and gives them a chance to come out on top, and that's precisely what he did Monday.
 
5. Carrick returns to Leafs lineup after month-long injury absence, makes immediate impact on Toronto's defence corps. Defenceman Connor Carrick was playing his first game since he was injured in the first period against Winnipeg Feb. 21, and the 22-year-old's impact on Toronto's defence was clear and welcome: he logged 20:49 of ice time - including 2:00 on the penalty kill - and was a feisty presence on the back end for the Leafs against a tough Bruins squad.

Carrick starred for Toronto's American League affiliate Marlies team in the playoffs last season, and although he isn't playing the same type of role for this season's Leafs, his puck-moving skills and aggressiveness adds more tools head coach Mike Babcock can employ in his game plan. He'll take some of the pressure off veteran Leafs blueliners as the team finishes out the year, and the month he's spent on the injured reserve likely will keep him a little more fresh than he otherwise would've been in this, his first full NHL regular season.

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