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Maple Leafs say Game 7 against Bruins will be different this time

Were defeated in deciding game last season, 2013

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

TORONTO -- The Ghosts of Game 7 Past will be waiting for the Toronto Maple Leafs when they step onto the ice against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden for the deciding game of the Eastern Conference First Round on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVAS, NESN). Now the question becomes: Will they be haunted by their previous shortcomings or can they overcome them?

Toronto, which lost 4-2 in Game 6 at home Sunday with the opportunity to close the series, will be playing its second consecutive Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Bruins and third in the past seven seasons.

Boston won 5-4 in overtime in 2013 and 7-4 last season.

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Maple Leafs series coverage]

 

The Maple Leafs insist those demons have been exorcised. Only time will tell if they actually have.

"It's a new year," Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen said. "The comparisons, it's not where we're focused. We're focused on getting better for the next game.

"We're trying to make something happen. I thought we gave ourselves a chance (in Game 6). We'll have to do it in Boston."

Toronto has failed to do that in the past.

In 2013, the Maple Leafs led 4-1 in the third period, but the Bruins rallied, including scoring twice in the final 1:22 of regulation before winning in overtime. Only two members of the current team, defenseman Jake Gardiner and forward Nazem Kadri, played in that game, and Kadri won't play this time after being suspended for cross-checking Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk in Game 2.

Video: Memories: Bruins pull off remarkable rally in Game 7

Last season, Toronto took a 4-3 lead into the third period before allowing four goals in the final 20 minutes. Only four players -- forwards Tomas Plekanec, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak, and defenseman Roman Polak -- from that game aren't still with the team this season.

Why will it be different this time around?

"Because we've been through it," Maple Leafs forward Connor Brown said. "We're a confident group. We believe in ourselves. We've learned from what's happened in the past.

"Different year, different team."

The biggest difference from a year ago is the addition of forward John Tavares and defenseman Jake Muzzin. Tavares signed as a free agent in the offseason and Muzzin was acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 28.

Tavares was brought in for key playoff games like this. His addition gave the Maple Leafs a solid 1-2 punch at center with Auston Matthews and afforded coach Mike Babcock better matchup situations.

Video: BOS@TOR, Gm6: Matthews wires wrister off post and in

Muzzin has brought physicality to a Toronto blue line that desperately needed it. Such sandpaper will be vital in what stands to be a hostile environment in Boston.

But Tavares said the fact the Maple Leafs have won two of the three previous games in Boston (Game 1 and Game 5) gives them grounds for optimism.

"We've had some success there," Tavares said. "It will obviously be a tough task and a great challenge, but it's a great opportunity for us. It's been a [heck] of a series so far. We've still got a great chance to move on and get it going for a victory."

They've yet to accomplish it in two previous Game 7s there. Whether the third time's a charm remains to be seen.

"It's a completely new day, a new game," said Matthews, who scored in Game 6 and has five goals in his past four games. "You take the good and the bad, and we've got an opportunity. We're going into their arena and we've got to be ready to go. It's going to be a good atmosphere. It's win or go home, so we need all the guys on board, and we need a good start obviously.

"It's a tough loss. We would have loved to close it out on home ice tonight. We didn't. So regroup as a team, move forward, learn from our mistakes and we'll be ready to go in Boston in a couple days."

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