The Maple Leafs made it past the foothills in the first half of their season, but their final 24 games will be a more arduous trip up the playoff mountain.

With their element of surprise fading with each new game, Nazem Kadri getting more harsh treatment and divisional foes such as the Bruins still prominent on the schedule, there will be no free rides. The Bruins had a couple of days to read the glowing reports from Toronto’s opening half, with time to reflect on losing two third-period leads that knocked them from first in the conference. So they were ready to pounce when the Leafs dropped by Thursday after playing at home the night before against Ottawa.

“We play teams like (Boston), you have to cut down on your mistakes,” said winger Jay McClement, whose late goal gave Toronto hope of an upset before a 4-2 loss. “We have to sustain what we’ve done, but we’re in a spot we like (15-10). We’re where we want to be and it’s easier than playing catch-up.”

After lamenting his team “got out of its safe structure” with poor back-checking, coach Randy Carlyle would not criticize their work ethic under the schedule’s circumstances.

“If we commit to that effort night in and night out, we’ll win our share of games,” said Carlyle.

Boston did go with little-used backup goalie Anton Khudobin, who made 25 saves, while Ben Scrivens allowed three on 24 shots with a Tyler Seguin empty netter tossed in.