TORONTO -- For those watching, the final 20 minutes of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference First Round between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs was heart-palpitating, palm-sweating, edge-of-the-seat action. For those playing, or at least for the Bruins, the feeling was far less anxiety-ridden, if perhaps a bit sweatier.
They looked to those who had been there before, to their leaders, to Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask, to Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand and David Krejci, and that settled them. It allowed them to simplify what they were doing on the ice, to play with the intensity that was needed, to be the team that had amassed 107 points in the regular season, tied for second in the NHL, in an elimination game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"You just look out there, look at them going to work, and it's just a calming influence," defenseman Torey Krug said. "We're able to stay calm, cool, collected, and just go to work."
[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Maple Leafs series coverage]
The result? As Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said, "To me, it's the best game we've played."
And that might have been the key, really, to keeping the Maple Leafs from completing any comeback they might have contemplated in the third period, when they narrowed the Bruins lead to one goal but could not come any closer, eventually losing 4-2 on Sunday at Scotiabank Arena.
It gave the Bruins new life, tying the best-of-7 series 3-3 and setting up Game 7 at TD Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVAS, NESN).
"Any time your team is up for elimination, you need to bring your best," forward Jake DeBrusk said. "That was kind of our focus as a team today, was just play fearless and do what we do best."
Video: BOS@TOR, Gm6: Krejci, DeBrusk team up for crafty goal
They were calm and focused enough that, even when Morgan Rielly put the Maple Leafs up at 9:42 of the first period on a blast from the point, they did not waver. They looked to their best players, to their veterans and to their power play, with Marchand tying the game at 11:23, when he scored off a power-play face-off win by Bergeron on a puck that tipped off the inside of Ron Hainsey's leg and past Frederik Andersen. They did it again on a Krug rebound goal off a David Pastrnak shot, again on the power play, at 17:02.
The game-winner came in the second period, on a beauty of a rush, with Krejci setting up DeBrusk for the all-out effort to tip the centering pass past Andersen at 7:57 of the second, a goal they would need when Toronto's Auston Matthews scored to narrow the gap at 4:15 of the third.
"The execution," Bergeron said of what went right for Boston. "But I think also the way we were on the puck, our forecheck. I think they're a good team with their transition, when you have time, obviously. I thought we took time and space away pretty well. But it all came down to simplifying our game. I think that's when we're at our best."
It has come down to that time and again, to the simplicity of the game that the Bruins need to play, to the power play -- now 7-for-16 in the series -- and to the aggressive, on-the-line style that is generally their hallmark.
Oh, and to actually getting shots off.
"We weren't happy with the chances we got in Game 5," said Krug, who had nine of the Bruins' 41 shots in Game 6. "We weren't happy with our ability to push them back on their heels. If you funnel pucks to the net, force the goalie to control his rebounds or stop the puck, then it bodes well for us. We just continue to try to do that, have the right mentality, and hopefully that'll be the recipe for success in Game 7."
It was 7:09 into the second before the Maple Leafs got their first shot of the period, at which point the Bruins were leading in shots on goal, 20-7. They were putting pucks on Andersen in ways they hadn't in previous games, and though Andersen stood up well to it -- highlighted by a couple of glove saves, including one with 1:34 remaining in the first on Bergeron -- he couldn't save them all.
"Last game, the game before this, we probably passed up a few shots just to create chances for your teammates, whether it's rebounds or get a whistle and then we have an offensive-zone draw," Krug said. "I think it was just a mentality tonight. I knew coming in it was something I personally tried to do, and hopefully it bled through the team."
Video: BOS@TOR, Gm6: Krug cleans up rebound on power play
He might have been the best example. He kept pucks alive. He got them on net. He pushed and pushed and pushed, asserting himself, as the Bruins did as a whole.
"Today was more of the way we wanted (to play)," Cassidy said. "We wanted to be aggressive, keeping pucks alive with our D. That's how you end up with [nine shots] as a defenseman. I thought we were attacking the net better. Just more overall of our identity."
They were themselves. It was what they needed.
"Obviously, we're desperate, but this is the kind of thing we talked about yesterday, about trying to hit our ceiling," Cassidy said. "Certainly today, as a coach you're always looking for that, we got as close to it as I've seen in a long time."
And they got exactly what they wanted out of it, a win, a Game 7, a chance to move on.