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Matthews scores winner, Maple Leafs down Bruins to even series


BOSTON — Auston Matthews desperately wanted to reach 70 goals in the regular season.

After posts, crossbars and plenty of terrific looks, the Maple Leafs star finished one shy.

His first of the playoffs, however, was the biggest he's scored in quite some time.

Matthews beat Linus Ullmark on a breakaway with under eight minutes to go in regulation and added two assists Monday as Toronto topped the Boston Bruins 3-2 to even the teams' first-round series 1-1.

"It's just happening so fast," said the 26-year-old sniper. "You don't really have time to think. It's honestly just instinct and trying to make the right play."

The first NHLer to hit 69 goals since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96 took a lob pass from Max Domi before making a move to the forehand at 12:06 of the third period, giving the Leafs their first lead against the Bruins in the last six games — including four in the regular season.

"World class at everything he does," Toronto captain John Tavares, who scored late in the second to tie the game 2-2, said of Matthews. "Sets the standard for us. Hell of a game. He's driving our team."

Domi provided the rest of the offence for Toronto. Ilya Samsonov was outstanding in making 27 saves after giving up 15 goals over his last three starts, including four in Saturday's 5-1 loss to open the best-of-seven matchup.

"Really good game for us," said the Russian. "Everybody stays strong."

The Leafs needed to be with winger William Nylander out for a second straight game — and after facing some tough moments that included a Bruins goal late in the opening period and having two of their own denied by video review.

"Loved our resolve," Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said. "There's some things piling up that weren't really going our way, but the guys stayed with it."

David Pastrnak and Morgan Geekie replied for Boston. Ullmark stopped 30 shots for the Bruins, who bested the Leafs in Game 1 with Jeremy Swayman in net.

"No second guesses. He was terrific," Boston head coach Jim Montgomery said of Ullmark. "We only scored two goals."

Game 3 of the best-of-seven series goes Wednesday in Toronto.

The Leafs got the better of the Bruins for the first time in nine games — a stretch of more than 530 days — dating back to November 2022.

"A really good team that we've got a ton of respect for," Keefe said. "They demand a lot of us, and I thought our guys were right there with them."

After Matthews gave Toronto the lead, Boston got a power play with six minutes left, but never really threatened. The puck then stayed out on a hair-raising scramble in Samsonov's crease in the final minute.

Boston, which topped its Original Six rival in the first round in 2013, 2018 and 2019, opened the scoring at 10:18 of the first when Geekie scored on the power play.

Toronto pushed right back just 14 seconds later.

Matthews fired a shot off the crossbar and Domi, who took a bad penalty Saturday that led to a Bruins goal, buried the loose puck before emphatically motioning to the TD Garden crowd in celebration.

"What it's all about, right?" Domi said. "Had some fun out there."

The Leafs were in good shape and poised to head to the intermission all square when disaster struck.

Samsonov misplayed an easy dump-in that led to Charlie Coyle rattling a shot off the side of the netminder's mask. After a delay to get some equipment repairs, Tavares lost the faceoff and Mitch Marner fell asleep in coverage, allowing Pastrnak to one-time a blast with 7.8 seconds remaining on the clock.

Ullmark, who got the start despite Swayman's 35-save performance in Game 1 to continue Boston's crease rotation, made a terrific glove stop on Calle Jarnkrok in the second that was confirmed after review to make sure the puck didn't cross the line.

Tyler Bertuzzi — a trade deadline acquisition by Boston last spring before signing with Toronto — appeared to tie the game 2-2 on a power play late in the period, but the call was reversed for a high stick.

The Leafs still had almost two minutes left on that man advantage and got even when Tavares took a pass from Matthews in the slot and fired past Ullmark's blocker as Toronto's power play finally connected on its sixth opportunity of the series.

Samsonov made a huge stop at full stretch early in the third on a Brad Marchand chance and Ullmark robbed Nick Robertson at the other end with the glove before Matthews provided the margin of victory in a moment of brilliance.

"It's an important time of year for us, for our team," said the three-time Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy winner as the NHL's leading goal-scorer. "These moments are emotional and mean a lot.

"Going on home split 1-1, gotta continue to stay focused."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2024.


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