The Toronto Maple Leafs
are closing strong. They're hoping a big finish will be enough to get them into the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
The Leafs kept their playoff hopes alive when rookie Nazem Kadri scored the only goal in the shootout to give Toronto a 4-3 victory at Boston on Thursday night -- preventing the Bruins from clinching the Northeast Division in the process.
The Leafs have won five of their last six -- their best stretch 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."
The single point assured the Bruins of a tie for the division title -- they need one more point or one more lost point by Montreal. But they were hardly happy after watching the Leafs come into TD Garden and outplay them.
"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."
While the Bruins make playoff plans, the 10th-place Leafs are scrambling for one of the bottom two spots. They are five points behind seventh-place Buffalo and the eighth-place Rangers with four games remaining.
"Another character win playing against a really good team, a top team in the East and being down by one going into the third," Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said.
Joffrey Lupul scored twice for Toronto, Luke Schenn added a goal and former Bruin Phil Kessel had a pair of assists. Lupul's second of the game, a wrister from the right circle, tied it at 3-3 with just over 12 minutes left in the third period.
Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Andrew Ference scored for Boston, which lost four of six meetings with the Leafs this season.
"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."
Tim Thomas made 28 saves, including a right-pad stop on Mikhail Grabovski's penalty shot 43 seconds into overtime. But in the shootout, Kadri beat him with a backhander over the left shoulder for the only goal. Tyler Seguin, Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley failed to score against James Reimer, who Seguin and Ryder missing high before the rookie goaltender made a glove save on Peverley to end the game.
"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."
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.
Schenn scored the only goal of the first period, but the Bruins came out strong in the second and scored twice in 59 seconds to take the lead.
Marchand's shorthanded goal tied it just 2:09 into the period. He grabbed a loose puck in the neutral zone, beat Clarke MacArthur and beat Reimer with a backhander for his fifth shorthanded goal of the season.
Krejci redirected Milan Lucic's pass behind Reimer 59 seconds later to put Boston ahead for the first time.
Lupul tapped in a power-play goal at 7:06 to tie the score, but Ference put Boston back in front 1:25 later when he charged in from the point to a loose puck along the boards and fired a shot that deflected off a Leafs player and went between Reimer's pads.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report