The Toronto Maple Leafs played with more energy and effort in their third meeting with the archrival Boston Bruins, but in the end were undone by their inability to play well in their own end, as Brad Marchand scored a pair of third period goals in a 4-2 Bruins victory at Scotiabank Arena on Friday.
Auston Matthews and Kasperi Kapanen scored and Frederik Andersen made 30 saves for the Leafs, who have lost their last four games and raise more questions after each game than they have answers for.
Toronto played with more energy and physicality against the Bruins, but once again fell behind early and played catch-up most of the night. Charlie Coyle opened the scoring 13:48 into the first period, after being left untouched in front of the Leafs net, but Toronto tied the game in the middle frame on a deft deflection by Matthews past Boston goalie Tuukka Rask.
The Leafs penchant for slow starts in games and periods once again cost them in the third, as off the opening faceoff Marchand broke into the Toronto zone, beat Morgan Rielly to the outside to get a shot on Andersen and was unhindered enough to get a second chance and knock the puck past the Leafs goalie.
The line of Zach Hyman, John Tavares and Kapanen was the most consistent of Toronto’s forward lines on the night and responded just over three minutes later, as Tavares wheeled and passed to an open Kapanen for his sixth of the season, but Marchand once again found a soft spot in the defensive coverage, cutting in front of the Leafs net past Ilya Mikheyev and Jason Spezza and tipped a rebound past Andersen for the game-winner.
“I thought we were doing lots of good things.” Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said after the game. “I didn't think we were as good in the third as we had been the rest of the game. They got ahead and they played right and made it hard on us. I thought we played well and it was a good hockey game, had lots of good players up front. We carried play at times, they carried play at times, they had good players, but we're coming up short.”
While overall the Leafs played better than they have recently, their inconsistency and their inability to find solutions is costing them points when they are normally easier to get. The line of Mikheyev, Spezza and Nic Petan had offensive chances, but could not convert and were on the ice for Coyle’s opening goal and Marchand’s game-winner.
Rielly once again led the club in ice time with nearly 25 minutes, but was primarily responsible for Marchand’s goal to start the third and partially at fault for the game-winner, which may be a sign that such a heavy burden is not beneficial. Babcock and his coaching staff continue to provide material for second-guessing, with no structural or personnel changes in a power play that has been ineffective for most of the season, and decisions like putting out a non-offensive fourth line with Frederik Gauthier and Nick Shore with three minutes to go in regulation trailing by a goal.
The plague of injuries continued for Toronto on Friday, as winger Trevor Moore left the game in the first period after colliding with Boston’s Chris Wagner and did not return.
Babcock indicated after the game that Moore would not be accompanying the club to Pittsburgh for tonight’s game against the Penguins and that Dmytro Timashov would replace him in the lineup, but had no information on the extent of the injury.
Pittsburgh is without Sidney Crosby (sports hernia surgery) and lost 2-1 to the Devils in Newark on Friday with starter Matt Murray in goal, which likely means that backup Tristan Jarry will get the start against Toronto. Kasimir Kaskisuo will make his first NHL start in the second of back-to-back games for the Leafs.
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