BOSTON, MA - Heading into Game 5 at TD Garden with the 3-1 series lead Friday night, the Bruins knew they would be facing a desperate Toronto team.
The challenge would be matching - and surpassing - that desperation.
The Bruins didn't get the jump they wanted off the start, and didn't find that desperation until midway through the second period, when they were staring at an 0-2 deficit on a night when they were supposed to clinch. Despite a third-period goal by Captain Zdeno Chara, they fell, 2-1, to the Leafs, bringing the series back to Toronto for Game 6 on Sunday night.
So, in this case, does the team facing elimination have the upper-hand, and the momentum?
"It’s about us, being desperate and finding a way," said B's alternate captain Patrice Bergeron, following the loss. "We knew they were going to come out hard, they did and now it’s about making sure we’re ready for Game 6."
"I can’t really recall anything ever being easy for any team," added defenseman Andrew Ference, a playoff veteran who also dons the 'A' for the Bruins. "Like I said, wins are difficult to get this time of year and they have to be earned. If you don’t match a team at the beginning of a game like that, you spot them a couple of goals, it’s a tough win this time of year."
Fellow blueliner Dennis Seidenberg thought if the Bruins had come out with their "killer instinct" heading into the game, they should have been able to match the desperation.
"We just didn’t have that tonight and that’s why we performed the way we did in the first half of the game."
"I think everybody saw we came out flat in the first," added Seidenberg. "Our breakout was sloppy. Our first passes were not on the tape in that they didn’t create any offense."
"We like to come out of our zone with a lot of speed, crisp passes, and that didn’t happen."
With breakout miscues in the first period, it was Tuukka Rask keeping the Bruins in the game, stoning the Leafs on all 19 of their shots.
"First period, we were in the game because of him. There’s no doubt there, he made all the saves," said Coach Julien.
"A couple times, on that breakaway on the power play, and then the other one’s just a poor execution from the puck off the boards, let a guy come in with some speed and just walk in. We didn’t give [Tuukka] much help on those."
Toronto got on the board first when a turnover at the blueline on the power play led to a Tyler Bozak breakaway shorthanded 11:27 into the second. Then, it was Leafs' forward Clarke MacArthur generating speed up ice, and pulling a move to cut back on Rask with his own breakaway. A telling stat: the Bruins ended up with one more point on the scoresheet Friday night, with both Toronto goals unassisted on the breakaway.
"Just trying to do a little bit too much," said blueliner Johnny Boychuk, on the miscues. "We had a lot of turnovers and they had more time in our zone because we kept turning the pucks over at the bluelines, instead of getting it deep."
In the first 20 minutes, the Bruins had difficult pushing the pace up ice, working their North-South game that especially gets David Krejci's line rolling. But still, they went into the second without allowing a goal.
Nearing the midpoint of the middle frame, Chris Kelly's line with Jaromir Jagr and Rich Peverley sustained an hefty amount of pressure. Soon after, Bergeron was robbed, point-blank, by Leafs' goaltender James Reimer in close, after pouncing on a rebound.
"I was kind of still turning, I just tried to go as fast as I could. Obviously I’d like to see that one again," said Bergeron, who was hard on himself postgame for not burying the chance. "It’s one of those things that in the moment you’re just trying to put it in the back of the net, but now obviously I had more time than I thought I had and it’s got to go in."
"We had lots of chances. In the second period, Bergeron’s great opportunity at the side of the net; he scores that goal and it’s a different game," said Coach Julien. "Hit the crossbar with Boychuk and we hit the post in the last few seconds. Those are things that happen, but they happened too late."
But the chances couldn't be buried, and Toronto took control of the game. That is, until the Bruins had to turn to their own desperation late in the game.
"If there’s anything to understand from this, it’s that we’ve got to play three periods like we did in the third, if we expect to close this out," said Julien.
"You knew they were going to come with a big push," said Leafs' Head Coach Randy Carlyle postgame, on the Bruins putting on the pressure in the final 20 minutes. "They hit two posts in the third, a crossbar and a post. So we’ve got to feel lucky we came out of it."
"Every once in a while the hockey gods will take care of the people that deserve it," said Coach Julien. "Obviously they played 40 strong minutes and they deserved to win tonight. We have to lick our wounds and get ready for next game."
Though, Seidenberg was quick to point out a detail that often leads to some puck luck.
"You have to work for your luck, and we didn’t. We started working too late," said the defenseman, before adding, "But, if we keep going that way [like we did in the third] then we should be fine."
"The killer instinct for me would be to play three periods like we did in the third period. We’re very capable of doing that," added Coach Julien, of continuing the third-period effort into Game 6.
"This is something that we have to take the blame for, it’s of our own doing. They were a desperate team, it showed at the beginning of the game and we were down 2-0 and, all of a sudden, we became the desperate team. Hopefully it doesn’t take the score to make a team desperate and that’s what we have to understand."
Moving forward, the Bruins know that the quicker they can learn from the mistakes, and move on to Game 6, the better.
"Well, you can’t get frustrated," said Chara, who pulled the B's within one with his high-slot wrister midway through the third, after serious battling along the boards by the five-man unit with Seidenberg, Horton, Lucic and Krejci.
"We didn’t get the equalizer, so [we’ll] get ready for the next game."
"It’s the playoffs. You can’t be sitting on your wins or your losses. You’ve got to move on."
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