When Nathan Horton goes top shelf, he really goes top shelf.
Responding to a Toronto power play goal, Horton took a pretty feed from Milan Lucic and snapped a shot from the low point that elevated past goalie James Reimer and lodged on top of the camera stanchion, giving the Boston Bruins a 3-1 lead on their way to a 5-2 stomping of the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Monday night.
Adam McQuaid, Rich Peverley, Daniel Paille and David Krejci scored goals in addition to Horton, who scored his third goal in as many games as the Bruins avenged Saturday night’s snooze-fest loss to the Leafs and now lead the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series 2-1, recapturing home ice advantage with the win.
For a split-second, everyone in the arena, commentators and players alike were scanning the ice for the puck, but the when the referee pointed at the back of the net and the entire Krejci line began celebrating, it was clear that the Bruins had dodged a major bullet.
Leading 2-0 in the second period, winger Tyler Seguin took a bad tripping penalty, and on the resultant power play Toronto’s Jake Gardiner fired a rocket past screened Boston Goaltender Tuukka Rask to cut the Boston lead to just one goal and got the hyper-tense Air Canada Centre crowd and the throng of fans partying on the commons outside of the arena on their feet and back into the game…
…and then Horton sent them right back down in their seats 50 seconds later, taking the pass from Lucic right on his tape and reestablishing the two goal margin.
Two minutes later with Seguin in the sin bin once again, serving a bench penalty for too many men on the ice, penalty killer Daniel Paille stole a pass in the neutral zone and skated uncontested for a breakaway shorty that increased the Bruins’ lead to 4-1 at the second intermission, disbursing the crowd who now set their sights on Wednesday night’s Game 4 once again in Toronto.
Not all was good for Boston, as their defense allowed an excessive 47 shots on goal, with Rask stopping 45 – many in spectacular fashion. Conversely, Leafs’ netminder James Reimer followed up his gem in goal on Wednesday night in Boston with a clunker in Toronto’s first home playoff game in nearly a decade.
With time running out in the opening stanza and the teams taking to mugging each other on open ice, McQuaid took a pass on the high post and wristed a wicked drive past Reimer’s glove side for the one goal lead. The Bruins sniped Reimer from long range throughout the opening frame, particularly Johnny Boychuck who wound up and fired on goal several times, but it was McQuaid who finally burned them – the fourth goal of the series by a Bruins defenseman.
In the second period, Jaromir Jagr finally showed some teeth in the offensive zone, stealing a puck from Ryan O’Byrne behind Toronto’s goal and deftly feeding Rich Peverley who snapped the puck past a helpless Reimer for the 2-0 Bruins lead, setting up the sequence of Gardiner’s goal and Horton’s answer.
Just 47 seconds into the third period, Phil Kessel scored for the Leafs to give the partisan crowd hope for a comeback, which Rask quashed with stellar goal tending to go along with aggressive, hard-hitting defense in front of him. Krejci was rewarded for his efforts with an empty net goal to give the Bruins their final 5-2 tally.
It wasn’t perfect and certainly not as dominating as Game 1′s 4-1 win in Boston, but the Bruins were impressive in going into the Air Canada madhouse and shutting down the physical Maple Leafs on the scoreboard, though the scrappy Leafs kept hitting and forcing the issue until the final horn…
…and now the question looms: which Bruins’ team shows up on Wednesday night, the fully involved lines of games one and three, or the napping Rumpelstiltskins of Game two?
With a chance to go up 3-1 in the series and possibly close out the series upon returning to Boston for Game 5, the smart money is on an aggressive Bruins’ squad taking the crowd out of the game and taking the game to the Leafs.