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Lack of scoring and special team woes hurt Maple Leafs in Game 3 loss to Bruins

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Photo credit:© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
1 month ago
It was important for the Maple Leafs to leave Boston with a series split after dropping game one 5-1. With that win in their back pocket, they headed home to Toronto with Games 3 and 4 on the schedule with a chance to take advantage of home ice last night.

First period:

Getting the series split in Boston even before Game 1 was the most realistic worst-case scenario for the Maple Leafs because sweeping them seemed way too unrealistic, and Toronto couldn’t go 0-2 on the road. Luckily, after dropping game one 5-1, Toronto bounced back in a big way, taking game two by a score of 3-2 before heading home for Games 3 and 4.
Heading into game three, Toronto was still without their 98-point winger, William Nylander, due to an undisclosed injury that has kept him out of this series. But after they won game two, they returned to Scotiabank Arena in front of the faithful Maple Leafs fans in hopes of coming out victorious last night. Upon puck drop, the atmosphere inside the arena was electric. But the first period was rather low-event despite three combined power plays, including one for Boston 40 seconds into the contest after Simon Benoit was whistled for a delay-of-game penalty.
Fortunately, the Maple Leafs’ penalty kill unit got the job done and successfully killed off Benoit’s silly mistake early on, keeping the score tied at zero. After going 1-for-1 on the penalty kill, Bruins’ rookie Mason Lohrei was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking, sending Toronto’s power play to the ice with a crucial opportunity less than five minutes in. In typical Toronto fashion, with their power play in the playoffs, it was a no-show. Following that unsuccessful attempt at 4:21 into the first frame, they replicated their performance after they received their second man advantage just before the midway point when Pavel Zacha was whistled for tripping Ilya Lyubushkin in the neutral zone.
With two power plays in one period gone to waste and the game still tied at zero, Toronto needed to take advantage of their next opportunity because scoring on Jeremy Swayman has clearly been a troubling task for them all season long in all situations. But it’s not just Swayman. Toronto entered last night’s game recording less than three goals in eight of their last nine playoff games.
Toronto entered the first intermission tied 0-0 and in shots 7-7.

Second period:

After 20 minutes of hockey couldn’t produce a goal for either team, Toronto and Boston began the middle period tied at zero, with both fan bases nervous for the first tally of the game with 40 minutes left in regulation. Similar to the first period and the bulk of game two, it was a tight period for both teams. Toronto and Boston had their chances, including the home side, after getting their third power play of the night seven minutes into the middle frame. But their power play woes continued, and they couldn’t cash in on their opportunity, keeping the game tied 0-0.
But despite wasting their third man advantage of the night, it was Toronto’s second line who opened the scoring 13:10 into the period, thanks to a sweet pass from Mitch Marner, who found Matthew Knies dashing to the far post and potted home his first goal of the playoffs, giving his team the 1-0 lead.
With the first goal of the game going to Toronto, there was a feeling that the next power play of the game was going to Boston, given the home team had three power plays compared to the Bruins’ one, which came 40 seconds into the game. Well, they didn’t get the following power play, but they benefited from a couple of missed calls, which resulted in Trent Frederic going the other and sniping his second goal of the playoffs short-side post and in past Samsonov, tying the game at one four minutes after Knies’ tally.
Just seconds before this goal, Brad Marchand and Tyler Bertuzzi were going at each other in the neutral zone. Honestly, the referees could’ve left it alone or called both guys. But it was at the end of their little scrum when Marchand took out Bertuzzi’s legs with his stick, tripping him to the ice while Frederic skated past everyone in the neutral zone. But it wasn’t just that missed call on Marchand. During all of this, Matthews was tackled behind the Bruins’ net by McAvoy, preventing him from getting to the puck. I’m shocked that wasn’t called a penalty, but it makes sense with Toronto being up 1-0 and up on power plays 3-1 at the time of that missed call.
However, you can complain to the officials all you want, they won’t change. And after holding their second lead against Boston this year, it was now a tie game with less than three minutes to go in the period. Fortunately, if you want to look at it that way, Toronto was headed to their fourth power play after Charlie McAvoy was whistled for roughing. But that power play didn’t last long at all. A questionable forced pass from Marner in the offensive zone allowed Boston to clear their zone, and roughly a minute later, Bertuzzi was sent to the penalty box for roughing after delivering a hit.
Toronto entered the second intermission tied 1-1 and outshot 22-16.

Third period:

These two teams entered the final period of regulation the same way they entered the second period and began the game – tied. With 20 minutes (or more) left in this contest and the game tied at one, it felt like game two all over again. Toronto had to play smart, not make mistakes, and take advantage of any poor decisions from Boston. But after going 0-for-4 on the power play and successfully killing off Boston’s only power play from earlier in the first period, the Maple Leafs had to kill off Bertuzzi’s roughing minor to begin the final period after he was called for it during Toronto’s power play at the end of the second period.
Unfortunately, whatever was said between periods didn’t work because it took Boston a little over one minute to take the lead, thanks to Jake DeBrusk, who buried a rebound on the power play for his third goal this series. I didn’t enjoy the first goal Samsonov allowed, which was short-side post and in, and I didn’t enjoy this goal either. He was late to drop on the initial shot from Marchand, which produced a juicy rebound he couldn’t smother, and DeBrusk was all alone in front to score.
With their second lead against Boston all year long vanished just like that, Toronto was now the team playing keep up down 2-1 with less than 19 minutes left in regulation. Whether it was going to come at five-on-five or magically on the man advantage, Toronto needed an answer to that Bruins goal, and they had to find a way to beat Swayman, who has haunted this team for the past two seasons. Less than five minutes into the third frame, the rookie Mason Lohrei was sent to the box for his second penalty of the game, sending Toronto to their fifth (!) power play. Similarly to their first four attempts last night, they had no answer with an extra attacker on the ice. You could tell the crowd was getting anxious after blowing five opportunities on the man advantage with the midway point of the period starting to creep up.
But don’t stress. After a handful of glorious looks from earlier in the game, Bertuzzi was in the right place at the right time when Morgan Rielly blasted a shot toward the net. The initial shot from Rielly wouldn’t have happened if Max Domi hadn’t fired a shot on the net, which was redirected to the boards, allowing Rielly to shoot. His shot was going wide, but it took a redirection off Bertuzzi’s skate, then hit Hampus Lindholm’s skate and made its way past Swayman, tying the game at two with less than nine minutes to go.
Suddenly, it was a tie game again, and after the top line was the primary producer in game two, they got their team on the board to even things up. However, for some reason, the next shift following a goal from those players led to a scramble in their zone, and another breakdown/missed assignment led to a Bruins goal 28 seconds later. It was just a terrible shift in the defensive zone for Toronto that led to Samsonov having no stick because Matthews ran into it and Domi puck-watching, reacting late to Marchand, who ended up scoring on an absolute snipe on Samsonov.
The Maple Leafs did try for the remaining eight minutes to find a tying goal and came close a couple of times with some net-front scrambles, but scoring goals continues to be challenging for this group. As time winded down, Keefe pulled Samsonov for the extra attacker, but with 1:04 left on the clock, John Tavares was whistled for holding, which was a little questionable given the sell job from McAvoy and the fact Tavares had his stick held before the penalty being called. But taking a penalty while you’re down by one goal with your goalie pulled won’t do you any favours.
Samsonov was pulled again once Toronto gained the offensive zone, but Brad Marchand deposited his second goal into the empty net with 35 seconds left, wrapping this game up 4-2 for the Bruins.

Who stood out:

I could tell you who didn’t look good in last night’s 4-2 loss. The special teams continue to be a significant issue with this team. The referees weren’t the greatest, and there could’ve been five more power plays for Toronto and even more for Boston. But when your team has five opportunities, two more than the Bruins, and scores zero power play goals while allowing Boston to go 2-for-3 on their opportunities, you don’t deserve to win… it’s as simple as that. You’re not winning many hockey games when your special teams produce like that consistently.
Over their last ten playoff games (two against Tampa Bay, five against Florida and three against Boston), Toronto has gone 3-for-26 on the power play (12%) and 15-for-23 on the penalty kill (65%). That is not good enough. Over those ten games, the Maple Leafs have been held to under three goals nine times (3-7 record). Scoring on the power play and keeping the puck out of their net short-handed has been a problem, but scoring in all situations is a significant flaw with this team and has been for a long time.
Mitch Marner. I know he set up Matthew Knies for the first goal of the game, and it was a nifty pass to find him, but outside of that pass, he hasn’t done much this series, and many plays died on his stick during yesterday’s game.
You can catch Game 4 of the Toronto Maple Leafs – Boston Bruins first-round series on Saturday night from Scotiabank Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:00 pm ET/5:00 pm PT. 

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