Costly mis­takes haunt Leafs against Bru­ins

Toronto de­fen­sive blun­ders turn a sec­ond-pe­riod lead into a one-goal deficit as Bos­ton gains in stand­ings

Waterloo Region Record - - Sports - JOSHUA CLIPPERTON

TORONTO — For once, the Bos­ton Bru­ins’ top line wasn’t Toronto’s un­do­ing.

The Maple Leafs took care of that all by them­selves with a cou­ple of costly turnovers.

Sean Ku­raly and David Pas­tr­nak pounced on mis­cues by Toronto de­fence­men Jake Gar­diner and Nikita Zait­sev late in the sec­ond pe­riod to turn a 2-1 Leafs lead into a one-goal deficit as Bos­ton grabbed a 3-2 Na­tional Hockey League vic­tory Satur­day.

“We came out and played the game we wanted to,” said Toronto winger Mitch Marner, who scored his 17th goal of the sea­son. “Just made a cou­ple of mis­takes and they didn’t miss.”

Ku­raly set up both Pas­tr­nak and David Kre­jci to regis­ter the first three-point game of his ca­reer for Bos­ton (26-15-4), which elim­i­nated the Leafs in the first round of last sea­son’s play­offs.

Tuukka Rask made 30 saves as the Bru­ins won the sea­son se­ries be­tween the teams 3-1 and now sit just two points back of the Leafs for sec­ond in the At­lantic Divi­sion.

“Two big points,” Ku­raly said. “There was no other way to look at it.”

An­dreas Johns­son also scored for Toronto (28-14-2), which does have a game in hand on Bos­ton. Michael Hutchin­son stopped 26 shots.

The Bru­ins beat the Leafs 5-1 at home on Nov. 10 be­fore Toronto re­turned the favour 16 days later with a 4-2 vic­tory at Sco­tia­bank Arena to set up a testy af­fair fea­tur­ing 98 min­utes in penal­ties that Bos­ton won 6-3 on Dec. 8.

It’s only Jan­uary, but there’s a good chance the clubs could meet in a re­match of last spring’s play­off se­ries that went the dis­tance — a task Nazem Kadri said the Leafs would gladly wel­come.

“We’re al­ways look­ing for­ward to play­ing these guys,” said the cen­tre. “They’re a great hockey team, they’re well-coached.

“Tons of credit goes to them, but we’re a good team, too.”

Down 2-1 in the sec­ond, Bos­ton got even at 14:47 when Gar­diner fanned on a break­out at­tempt be­fore hav­ing the puck stolen by Chris Wag­ner, who in turn fed Ku­raly to snap home his fifth.

Ku­raly then in­ter­cepted Zait­sev’s soft pass be­hind the net be­fore feed­ing Pas­tr­nak, who buried his 26th past a sur­prised Hutchin­son with 13.7 sec­onds left on the clock.

Pas­tr­nak, who took a puck off the cheek in warmup, now has 19 points (11 goals, eight as­sists) in 15 ca­reer reg­u­lar-sea­son games against Toronto — in­clud­ing six goals and three as­sists in four out­ings this sea­son — after scor­ing five times and set­ting up eight against the Leafs in the 2018 play­offs.

Bos­ton’s top line of Pas­tr­nak, Pa­trice Berg­eron and Brad Marc­hand en­tered Satur­day with a com­bined 117 points in 122 reg­u­lar-sea­son con­tests against Toronto, and torched the Leafs for 30 points in last sea­son’s seven-game se­ries.

Hutchin­son scram­bled to stop a Pas­tr­nak chance early in the third to keep his team in it be­fore Kadri missed the net from a dif­fi­cult an­gle at the other end mid­way through the pe­riod.

Aus­ton Matthews, who has just one goal in his last nine games, had Rask down and out with four min­utes to go, but the puck rolled off his stick on what would be Toronto’s best op­por­tu­nity to tie.

“You’ve got to push through it,” Leafs head coach Mike Bab­cock said. “A lit­tle strug­gle in your life never hurt any­body. Just dig in.”

Bos­ton led 1-0 after the first, but the Leafs got even at 7:37 of the sec­ond on a strange play. Johns­son’s quick shot went off Rask, off Bru­ins de­fence­man Ke­van Miller and drib­bled into the net for the winger’s 10th.

Toronto’s dor­mant power play — 1for-36 over its last 13 games when re­mov­ing a 3-for-3 ef­fort against Flor­ida on Dec. 20 — came to life 1:53 later to give the Leafs their first lead when Marner blasted a slap­shot short side on Rask be­fore the wheels fell off de­fen­sively.

Hutchin­son, who spent three sea­sons in the mi­nors with the Bru­ins after get­ting drafted 77th over­all by Bos­ton in 2008, got his fifth straight start for Toronto with No. 1 net­min­der Fred­erik An­der­sen — on the shelf since Dec. 28 with a groin in­jury — out with the flu and backup Gar­ret Sparks still re­cov­er­ing from a con­cus­sion.

“We knew it was go­ing to be a close, hard-fought game,” Hutchin­son said. “It was just that.”

Kre­jci opened the scor­ing with 1:39 left in a first pe­riod where Toronto car­ried the bal­ance of play after an early Bos­ton surge. Ku­raly turned back in the of­fen­sive zone and fed Kre­jci, who made no mis­take for his ninth.

The Bru­ins had two golden op­por­tu­ni­ties to take the lead early, but Marc­hand missed a wide-open net and Berg­eron fired wide on a 2-on-1 break.

STEVE RUS­SELL TORONTO STAR

Bos­ton goal­tender Tuukka Rask made 30 saves Satur­day as the Bru­ins won the sea­son se­ries over the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1.

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