And just nine minutes in the third period, the Maple Leafs led by three goals. The hometown fans slowly start to empty their seats; another season in the books, another early exit with a first-round loss.
While many hope for a Cinderella story with their team battling back in the last minutes to win the series, it does not often actually happen that way. But the Boston faithful who stayed in their seats were treated to such a game. They witnessed a roller-coaster ride of emotions, culminating in a beautiful overtime goal by the Bruins to send them into the second-round.
The Bruins were on their heels for much of the game, including the first few minutes of overtime. But in the third period the beast was awoken.
The first strike was a gorgeous run around the back of the net and pass out front halfway through the third frame, making the score 4-2 in favor of the Leafs. While I wouldn’t call this goal the “start of the demise of the Maple Leafs,” it certainly sparked some life into an otherwise defeated Bruin team.
Despite the change in momentum, despite out-shooting Toronto 7-to-1 during the next nine minutes, there was nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
Then it happened. With 1:22 left in the third period, and the Bruin net vacated by Tuukka Rask in favour of the sixth player up ice, Milan Lucic banged home the third goal in front of James Reimer.
After that, it was a quick turn-around. With just 51 seconds remaining, and the wall that is Zdeno Chara parked in front of Reimer, Patrice Bergeron blasted home another goal to tie things up.
Coming back out to the ice in overtime, the Leafs started out strong, registering the only two shots in the first three minutes of the extra period.
After that, it was all Boston.
With strong play in and out of the Toronto zone, the Bruins put together a few quick shots on net and a bouncing puck found its way onto the stick of Patrice Bergeron once again. With Reimer all the way across the crease, Bergeron was able to slip the puck by as the down-and-out netminder tried desperately to make a diving stop.
This was a great example of solid playoff hockey from both teams, and Toronto should be proud to have taken this series as far as they did. In the end, the more experienced team fought their way to a win.
It wasn't pretty, but it worked.
Round 2 starts tomorrow. If it's anything like this first round, we're in for another great matchup.