The Toronto Maple Leafs are clinging to their slim playoffs hopes and getting a feel for what the post-season might be like if their late charge falls short. Nazem Kadri
scored the only shootout goal to help Toronto beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 on Thursday night, lifting the Maple Leafs to their fifth victory in six games.
It's the best stretch they've had since opening the new year with four straight wins.
``It was a playoff atmosphere,'' Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. ``If that's the only playoffs we see, it can make the team better.''
With the point for reaching overtime, the Bruins clinched a tie for the Northeast Division title. The next Boston win or loss by Montreal will give the Bruins the division title.
But they were hardly happy.
``We certainly didn't play the way we could and didn't bring our 'A' game,'' Boston coach Claude Julien said. ``Not as good of an effort.''
Toronto is 10th in the Eastern Conference, five points behind seventh-place Buffalo and the New York Rangers for one of the eight playoff spots.
``Another character win playing against a really good team, a top team in the East and being down by one going into the third,'' Toronto defenceman Dion Phaneuf
said. Joffrey Lupul
scored twice for Toronto, Luke Schenn
added a goal and former Bruins forward Phil Kessel
had a pair of assists. Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Andrew Ference scored for Boston.
The Bruins lost the season series 4-2 to the Maple Leafs.
``We've been playing pretty good hockey lately,'' Marchand said. ``We didn't have a bad game tonight. We bounced back from a bad first period. They're a good team. I think a lot of people underestimate them.''
Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who made 28 saves, made a right-pad save on Mikhail Grabovski
's penalty shot 43 seconds into overtime, but Kadri beat him with a backhand shot over the left shoulder in the shootout.
Tyler Seguin, Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley each failed in the shootout for the Bruins. James Reimer
made a glove stop on Peverley to end it.
Both Seguin and Ryder shot over the net.
``If your game is not at a certain level and you are not competing and not matching intensity that's what it boils down to,'' Ference said. ``They are a team that has played us real well.''
Grabovski was awarded the penalty shot when he was hooked by Steven Kampfer after beating Zdeno Chara for a clean breakaway. Thomas also made a sliding right-pad save on that scoring attempt.
Boston had a power play for the final 1:05 of overtime after Lupul was called for slashing, but Reimer made a couple of good stops on long-range shots. He finished with 35 saves.
Lupul's second of the game tied it at three with just over 12 minutes left in the third period. He slipped a wrist shot past Thomas from the right circle.
Trailing 1-0, the Bruins came out strong in the second period after limited number of scoring chances in the first.
Marchand's short-handed goal tied it just 2:09 into the period. He collected a loose puck nearly centre ice, shifted around winger Clarke MacArthur
and lifted a backhander by Reimer for his fifth short-handed goal of the season.
Krejci's goal gave Boston a 2-1 edge just 59 seconds later when he redirected Milan Lucic's pass into the net from the top of the crease.
But Toronto tied it at two on Lupul's power-play goal at 7:06 before the Bruins took the lead on Ference's goal 1:25 later. Ference charged from the point to a loose puck along the boards and fired a shot that deflected off a Maple Leafs player and between Reimer's pads.
The Maple Leafs grabbed a 1-0 lead on Schenn's goal 7:06 into the opening period. His shot from the left point deflected off a Boston player in front and caromed past Thomas. NOTES:
Chara left the bench late in the second period and didn't return until early in the third. ... Boston LW Shawn Thornton missed the game after suffering a 40-stitch gash on his forehead Tuesday night in a victory over Chicago. ... Lucic assisted on the second goal, making him just the 10th player in the NHL since 2004-05 with 30 goals, 30 assists and 100 penalty minutes in a season. He added to those numbers with a crowd-pleasing fight with Jay Rosehill
later in the period.