It’s never a tea party in Boston and Monday night proved no different.
The Leafs and Bruins dazzled the TD Bank Garden fans with a back-and-forth affair which saw the action pick up more and more as the game went on.
It began as a bit of a defensive juggernaut. There were some good chances at both ends and Leafs goaltender James Reimer was forced to make some big saves, but blocked shots and tight defense was the story of the early going.
Nazem Kadri was caught with his head down going through the neutral zone and was punished for it with a huge hit. The Leafs, though, were rewarded because he never had the puck and on the ensuing power play, Joffrey Lupul buried his fourth goal since his return.
Kadri would then get on the score sheet not long after as he found Nikolai Kulemin streaking through centre ice, who finished it off with is patented forehand-backhand-forehand-shelf move.
However, it was Milan Lucic’s goal midway through the middle frame that would blow the game wide open. Scoring chances immediately followed and the run-and-gun style continued through to the third period, where Patrice Bergeron eventually tied the game.
Overtime would solve nothing, leaving the Leafs’ fate to the dreadful shootout.
It all came down to Kulemin… everyone wondering if he would try his move again, he did, and Rask had it all the way.
Good, Bad, Ugly
The good will have to be shared between Kadri and Reimer.
Kadri drew the penalty that turned into the game’s first goal, threading the needle to find Kulemin for the tying goal on a nothing play and even took a run at Zdeno Chara.
James Reimer has responded to his critics brilliantly in recent games. Tonight was an especially stunning performance with too many big saves to count.
The bad will have to go to Mark Fraser’s pinch that cost the Leafs the two-goal lead midway through, which then handed all momentum to the other side.
The ugly certainly goes to captain Dion Phaneuf for covering a ghost in front of the net, when Bergeron found a gift in the slot which he cashed in for the tying goal.
Roller Coaster Style
The Leafs began the game exactly how they needed to in a tough building on the road. Jumping out to a two-goal lead appeared to have the Bruins up against the ropes. That was until the Leafs’ undisciplined play began seep through.
A night-and-day difference from the first period where the Leafs played a pretty well-rounded game, the second and third had head coach Randy Carlyle likely pulling his hair out.
Out of all the good and bad, nothing stood out more than James Reimer. He was the only reason the Leafs made it to overtime, without question. He was forced to make save-after-save and was even awarded TSN’s Player of the Game honours for his efforts.
Toronto now has a five-point cushion on the eighth-seeded Rangers but remains four points behind the Senators for fifth place.
The Leafs will head back home to host the Florida Panthers Tuesday, the league’s last-placed team. Needless to say, those points cannot be squandered with just 15 games remaining.
Though the Leafs blew a two-goal lead against a division rival, the end result is three out of a possible four points taken from the Bruins this week. On the other hand, they are 0-4 in shootouts this year.
Remember those four lost points at the end of the season.