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Marchand stars again as Bruins push frustrated Leafs to the brink

Brad Marchand Charlie McAvoy Boston Bruins Brad Marchand Charlie McAvoy - The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner were having an animated discussion on the bench.

William Nylander was caught by cameras muttering to himself during the second-period exchange. Marner then took off his gloves and slammed them on the ground.

The Maple Leafs were down 2-0 in a game they desperately needed Saturday. The angst from Toronto's offensive stars — players accustomed to having their way in attack — would only grow.

Now the season hangs in the balance.

Brad Marchand became the Bruins' all-time leading playoff goal-scorer and added an assist as Boston suffocated the disjointed Leafs 3-1 to take a 3-1 lead in the teams' first-round series.

"Guys are trying. It's a good team over there that's limiting us," Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said. "You can question a lot of things … can't question the effort."

To make matters worse, Matthews didn't play the final period due to an illness that forced him to miss Friday's practice.

"He's been giving us everything," Keefe said. "Ultimately, the doctors pulled him."

James van Riemsdyk and David Pastrnak had the other goals for Boston, which can close out the best-of-seven series in Tuesday's Game 5 at home. Jeremy Swayman made 24 saves.

"Guys were committed," Marchand said of the Bruins' defensive structure. "We played tight. Guys did a great job getting back and getting sticks in lanes and making it tough on them."

Marner had replied for Toronto. Ilya Samsonov stopped 14-of-17 shots in 40 minutes of action. Joseph Woll played the third and finished with five saves. Nylander made his 2024 playoff debut after missing the first three games with an undisclosed injury.

Game 6, if necessary, would be back in Toronto on Thursday.

Swayman, who also started Games 1 and 3, got the call over Linus Ullmark as the Bruins strayed from their crease rotation that had seen the goaltenders rotate since February.

Marner, meanwhile, denied frustration was creeping into the group when asked about that sequence with Matthews and Nylander.

"We're grown men," he said. "Just a little bit off page there. We're not yet yelling at each other because we hate each other … we talked about it after. We're just trying to make a play."

"We expect a lot from each other and we love each other," Nylander added. "Just to push each other, have a high ceiling, I think is great."

Toronto was unable to connect on two first-period power plays — dropping to 1-for-13 in the series — with the crowd buzzing before the visitors pushed ahead.

Leafs tough guy Ryan Reaves turned the puck over and Van Riemsdyk, who played in Toronto from 2013 though 2018, jumped on the miscue to score his first of the series at 15:09.

Toronto winger Max Domi took a cross-checking penalty seven minutes into the second, and Boston's red-hot power play took advantage with its sixth goal in four games when Marchand one-timed his second — and the 56th of his post-season career to pass Cam Neely for top spot in franchise history — at 8:20.

After Matthews, Marner and Nylander had their chat, the Bruins, who topped Toronto in seven games in the opening round of the 2013, 2018 and 2019 playoffs, went up 3-0 with 41.6 seconds left in the period on another series of Leafs mistakes that led to a 2-on-0 where Marchand fed Pastrnak for his second.

"We're just not getting on the right side of it," Toronto captain John Tavares said. "Getting in a hole is difficult, especially against a team that defends as well as they do."

Fans were encouraged to be in full voice after some criticism about the Game 3 atmosphere, but channelled that energy into a chorus of boos as the clock ticked down to the intermission.

The Leafs made the goaltending change and were without Matthews when Ilya Lyubushkin rattled Swayman's crossbar three minutes into the third.

Marner finally got the home side on the board when he slid his first of the playoffs past Swayman at 5:42. The Bruins goaltender then denied Joel Edmundson on two successive chances with the Leafs pressing.

Toronto got another power play with less than six minutes remaining in regulation, but barely gained control in the offensive zone to fall to 1-for-15 with the man advantage.

The boos returned in the final minute to send the Leafs, who now need three straight victories against a team that's won 10 of the last 11 between the clubs head-to-head, on the road looking to keep their season alive.

"We have a tremendous fan base that wants to see us win and have success so badly," Tavares said. "You can't blame them."

The message is a simple one looking ahead to Tuesday.

"Stick together," Tavares added. "Keep pushing forward, find a way to get a win and bring it back here."


The Leafs paid tribute to late play-by-play man Bob Cole — the famed broadcaster was the voice of hockey for generations of Canadian fans — with a video montage of some of his memorable calls before puck drop. Cole died Wednesday at age 90.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 27, 2024.


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