You could have switched the jerseys – blue and white for black and gold – and few would have been surprised. As it was, though, this was a shocker. The Toronto Maple Leafs were all over the puck, dominating the play, hemming the Boston Bruins in their own zone for a full 20 minutes to start a game as they outshot them 19-8 and took draws in the offensive zone again and again. And they did so in a pivotal, must-win playoff game in Boston, where they had won just twice in regulation in their last 15 trips to the TD Garden. For a Leafs team that had been whipped 8-0 here roughly 13 months earlier, this could be a turning point, a shift where new coach Randy Carlyle could finally say that his preseason goal of restoring “respect” to the franchise was finally coming to fruition. The Leafs weren’t just back in the playoffs. They were succeeding there. Toronto pulled off another remarkable upset on Friday night, narrowly beating the Bruins 2-1 to extend the series to a sixth game at the Air Canada Centre and give the Leafs life in their first-round series after a heartbreaking overtime loss in Game 4. Through 40 minutes, it was one of the Leafs’ best efforts of the season, too, from netminder James Reimer’s flawless goaltending to two brilliant individual efforts by Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur to give their team a 2-0 lead early in the third period. Just in those areas alone, Toronto got elements that had been missing earlier in the series – excellent goaltending and production from its secondary scorers – two key differences that shifted the momentum in a big way. The Leafs had to hang on for dear life late – with the Bruins whiffing on shots and clanging posts until big Zdeno Chara finally beat Reimer with nine minutes to play and brought the crowd to a full throaty roar – but hang on they did. Even with the white-knuckle third period, however, this was a solid playoff performance, one that showed just how far the Leafs had come from the ugly way they had limped through the tail end of their season.
Leafs lean on Reimer to beat Bruins 2-1 and extend series
The Globe and Mail | May 11