BOSTON – The Toronto Maple Leafs had to win Friday night in order to extend their first run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs in nine years and have a chance to overcome a 3-1 series deficit.
Behind the near-flawless goaltending of James Reimer and a couple of unassisted goals, the Maple Leafs did just that. Reimer stopped 43 shots as Toronto forced Game 6 in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Boston Bruins by holding on for a 2-1 victory in Game 5 at TD Garden.
Game 6 is scheduled for Sunday night (7:30 p.m. ET; CBC, RDS) in Toronto, where Boston won Game 3 and 4 to seemingly take a stranglehold on the series. Now the Maple Leafs are a bit free of the Bruins' grasp and looking to make some franchise history.
"I think that we have to really make sure that our preparation is proper, and we've already spoken to them about that after the game and made sure that we do the right things between now and the faceoff on Sunday night," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "It's of vast importance that we take care of every little thing that we can physically. And mentally might be just as difficult, because we were in a situation where we had to win a game on the road and now we're going back home and I'm sure that we've poked the Bruins. They're going to be a very desperate hockey club come Sunday night, and we've got to be equally as desperate."
The Maple Leafs are 1-8 in series when they fall behind 3-1. The last time Toronto overcame a 3-1 series deficit was 1942, when the Maple Leafs came back from 3-0 down in the Final to beat the Detroit Red Wings and win the Stanley Cup.
By failing to close out the Maple Leafs, the Bruins fell to 3-7 in non-Game 7 potential clinchers during coach Claude Julien's six seasons behind the Boston bench.
"I think we just weren't prepared," forward Brad Marchand said. "Maybe we thought it was going to be a little easier than it was going to be. They came out very hard and really put a lot of pressure on us, and we weren't ready."
Reimer stopped 35 of 36 shots in the final 40 minutes, allowing only Zdeno Chara's goal with 8:48 remaining in regulation and the Maple Leafs leading 2-0. Two saves in particular stood out. Early in the second period while Reimer was protecting a 1-0 lead, he was able to cover just enough of an open net to deny Patrice Bergeron from the left of the slot.
"I'm not quite sure," Reimer said when asked about making that save. "It was just one of those plays where I think the puck deflected to him back door, and you just try to get something over there. Lucky enough that I got much over there and lucky enough that he hit it. I think he still had room on the side there. So it was just one of those lucky saves."
With 11.1 seconds left in regulation and the Bruins playing 6-on-5 with goaltender Tuukka Rask (31 saves) on the bench in an attempt to tie the game, Reimer denied Jaromir Jagr on the doorstep with the knob of his stick.
"That's a skill save," Reimer quipped.
Both of Toronto's goals were unassisted. Shortly after Reimer's amazing save on Bergeron, the Bruins went on a power play. During the penalty kill Tyler Bozak challenged at the right point and stole a pass from Andrew Ference. Bozak then outraced the Boston defenseman before beating Rask with a forehand shot at 11:27.
"It was relieving for sure," Bozak said. "I hadn't scored yet in this series, so in a big game it was nice to get us on the board. And the boys killed a huge [penalty] for me at the end of the game, so it was nice all around."
Clarke MacArthur scored the Maple Leafs' second goal 1:58 into the third off a Boston giveaway. After Johnny Boychuk's indirect pass out of the Boston zone eluded Nathan Horton, MacArthur intercepted it at the red line. He blew by Boychuk on his way to the net, where he beat Rask with a backhander.
MacArthur was a healthy scratch for Game 2 and 3 of this series, but he's now scored twice in as many games.
"I felt like I was going to get one tonight," MacArthur said. "I had chances early on, and to be able to get the game-winner like that, it was a great feeling. After getting one last game, [I] just felt likely I would get a good shot and have a good chance at it. Luckily enough, I got one tonight."
Although they wanted to close out this series at home, the Bruins still have the lead and can advance to the second round for the first time since 2011 with a better performance Sunday.
"The killer instinct for me would be to play three periods like we did in the third period [Friday]," Julien said. "We're very capable of doing that. This morning's skate we had good legs, we had lots of energy, so there's no reason for our team not to have that to start the game, which we didn't. Again, this is something that we have to take the blame for; it's of our own doing.
"They were a desperate team, it showed at the beginning of the game and we were down 2-0 and, all of a sudden, we became the desperate team. Hopefully it doesn't take the score to make a team desperate and that's what we have to understand."