It was truly a “Good Friday” for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who played a near perfect road game against the Boston Bruins in Game 5 in the best-of-seven series, but they received a favorable decision from the NHL Situation Room to break a third period deadlock in a 2-1 Leafs victory at TD Garden on Friday.
Auston Matthews and Kasperi Kapanen scored for Toronto and Frederik Andersen made 28 saves in the Leafs second road victory of the series, which gives them a 3-2 series lead and a chance to advance to the second round with a win at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday.
Both clubs took a conservative approach, trying to not make a mistake that could cost them the game. Toronto was able to avoid the giveaways that cost them Game 4 on Wednesday and the game remained scoreless into the third period.
Toronto took the lead late in the third after Trevor Moore negated an icing by winning a race with Torey Krug. Moments later, Jake Muzzin moved in from the point and made a cross-ice pass to Matthews, who unleashed a one-timer that beat Tuukka Rask.
The Bruins challenged the goal because there was contact between Rask and Zach Hyman prior to Matthews shot, but in spite of the appearance that Hyman initiated the contact with the Bruins goalie, the review of the goal was not deemed to be conclusive for interference and the goal was allowed to stand.
“I didn’t know (if the goal was going to count), because you know how things are. You don’t know. You never know.” Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said after the game. “It was a good play. We scored a good goal. It’s nice when it counts, but you’ve got to be ready if it doesn’t go your way.”
Toronto extended their lead just over two minutes later, as Andreas Johnsson set up Kapanen for his first of the playoffs. That extra cushion was needed, as David Krejci narrowed the gap to 2-1 in the final minutes with Rask pulled for the extra attacker, but the Leafs held on for the win and the series lead.
The Leafs may have had cause to be critical of the officiating in the series, with a number of calls that were not made on Boston in their Game 2 loss, with three penalties called against them in Game 5 and what appeared to be an offside that went uncalled prior to Krejci’s goal, but Toronto got the better end of the call that could be the turning point of the series.
“(Hyman) clearly interferes with Tuukka. It goes to Toronto, and they have to make a decision. I just hope they (didn’t) predict whether they thought the goalie could make the save, get across in time to determine whether it’s interference.” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game. “It’s either interference or it’s not.”
Matthews has scored in three straight games and leads the Leafs with four goals in the post-season, but just as importantly the 21-year-old played well at the other end of the ice, in a matchup at times against the Bruins top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak.
“I thought tonight, in particular, was (Matthews) best 200-footer of the playoffs. He was outstanding. He was involved in so many breakouts. He was there and available for the (defense).” Babcock said. “I thought he played great. I was impressed with him and proud for him. He should feel good about himself.”
The Leafs have an opportunity to close out the series at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday, which has been scheduled for 3pm due to the Easter holiday.
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