Saturday night served as a potential first-round preview of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the Atlantic Division’s second- and third-seeded teams — the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs — squaring off at Air Canada Centre.
And if that does, in fact, turn out to be the matchup, boy are we in for a fun ride come mid-April.
The Maple Leafs ultimately secured the 4-3 win off a Ron Hainsey goal at 18:36 in the third period, the culmination of what was a wild night in Toronto.
Brad Marchand had a pair of goals for the Bruins, while Nazem Kadri tallied a pair of his own for the Toronto.
Tuukka Rask made 32 saves, while Maple Leafs netminder Frederik Andersen turned away 20 shots.
The B’s fall to 37-14-8 with the loss, while the Leafs climb to 39-20-5.
Here’s how it all went down:
Marchand had himself a quality first period, opening the scoring at 6:11 with a stellar wrister from the high slot off a feed from Patrice Bergeron.
The excitement was pretty short-lived, however.
Just over a minute later, William Nylander skated toward the sideboards in the offensive zone, then sent a beautiful cross-ice pass over to Mitch Marner, who finished easily with the net open.
After giving up the first goal, Toronto quickly continued its turnaround, claiming the lead just 3:15 after Marner’s goal.
Quality net-front presence from the Leafs paved the way for their second tally. Marner wristed a shot from the point, and James van Riemsdyk — who was right in front of Rask — got a piece of the puck, which went to the other post for Kadri, who finished without issue.
But just after entering the final five minutes of the first, Marchand scored his second tally of the night.
David Pastrnak — who, along with Patrice Bergeron, both had a pair of assists — showed some good fight on the end boards, fighting off Hainsey to gain control of the puck. The 21-year-old zipped it to Marchand, who was darting to the net with space and proceeded to sneak it past Andersen.
Boston came out of the first intermission firing, taking a 3-2 lead just 1:55 into the middle period.
Ryan Spooner skated along the sideboards into the offensive zone, and after displaying some good composure with the puck, dashed it over to Jake DeBrusk, who was crashing toward the net. The 21-year-old finished with class, getting just enough stick onto the puck to flip it over Andersen.
But throughout the rest of the period, the Bruins were pushed to the limit. The Leafs finished the second period with a total of 27 shots for the game, making one of their final pucks on net count.
Marner and Kadri moved the puck back-and-forth well with one another, as the latter held firm in the high slot. Marner hit Kadri with one final pass, and the center one-timed it right past Rask.
LEAFS TALLY LATE WINNER
The third period was everything the previous 40 minutes had been. It was physical, chaotic and filled with scoring opportunities. But as time wore down, neither team had broken through and scored a potential game-winner.
That all changed with 1:24 remaining, thanks to Hainsey.
The Leafs worked the puck around the goal and up to the point, and the blue-liner whacked a one-timer on net that got past Rask.
Boston challenged the play for goaltender interference, as Charlie McAvoy was pushed into Rask moments before the shot, but the officials didn’t think it was enough to impede Rask from being able to fairly get over to try and stop the shot.
The Bruins will play the second game of a road back-to-back Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres. Puck drop from KeyBank Center is set for 5:00 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports Images