The Toronto Maple Leafs can never do things the easy way and took their loyal fan base on another emotional roller coaster ride losing a 4-2 decision to the Boston Bruins at the Scotiabank Arena Sunday afternoon.
The loss sets up a game seven, winner take-all match at TD Garden in Boston scheduled for Tuesday night. Not even the anniversary of Bill Barilko’s overtime heroics to win the Stanley Cup on this day in 1951 helped the hometown heroes.
Once again, the second period funk that haunted Toronto all season long mysteriously ruled it ugly head again in this crucial game.
With a chance to close out the Bruins and rid themselves of past demons when facing the dreaded Beantowners they started off just fine. With an electric atmosphere from an amped up, sellout crowd along with a packed Maple Leaf Square, Toronto came out with the same aggressive jump they had Friday in Boston.
They were rewarded with a Morgan Reilly goal and Leafs Nation started dialing up Air Canada for flights to Columbus, but not so fast folks.
A Tyler Ennis holding call set up the potent B’s power-play and while the crowd held its breath with the penalty clock ticking down, a flurry of activity around the dot after a faceoff saw a Marchand shot elude a startled Andersen and we had a tie game.
The Leafs tried to get the “mo” back but a Travis Dermott tripping call combined with another conversion not only took the air out of the building but the home town heroes were down a goal.
Like a switch went off they then played passive, no fire, sense of urgency and the Bruins sensing this directed shot after shot at the net. Frederik Andersen who would probably like at least one of the first two goals back (maybe both) did make some key saves to keep the light of hope flickering but along came the middle period and the lull continued.
The Bruins took a 3-1 lead into the third and Leafs on cue stepped up the energy and Auston Matthews with his fifth of the playoffs suddenly gave the faithful something to cheer about.
They had some chances and a cross-crease pass from Reilly to Matthews that just jumped over his stick was as close as they’d get to tie it up.
The Leafs defense looked tired, William Nylander turned the puck over numerous times and played his worst game of the post season, Andreas Johnsson took the long route to too many puck battles and shied away all evening. He turned away instead of jumping on a puck that allowed the Bruins to clear the zone and score into the empty net thwarting any chance for a comeback.
They head to Boston for the second consecutive season to decide the series and they had too many passengers in game six, plain and simple. The season is now in the hands of the players who know what’s at stake; it sure would be a shame after such a promising start to lose by not putting forth their best effort.
Leave it all on the ice, they have it in them.