A special-teams deficit, a gift to the Bruins courtesy of William Nylander, and a bad goal on Joseph Woll sunk a tired Maple Leafs team in Boston, completing the season-series sweep (with two loser points for the Leafs) and marking the seventh-straight victory for the Bruins over Toronto.

Your game in 10:

1.   The opening two minutes of the game were promising enough from the Leafs, including a good shift from the Bobby McMannJohn TavaresCalle Jarnkrok line that started with a solid hit by Jarnkrok coming off of the bench before they worked the walls and generated some extended offensive-zone time. When the Nylander line and the Benoit pairing shared the ice with the Bruins’ top line for the shift afterward, the ice tilted back the other way — Simon Benoit got bodied off a puck by Pavel Zacha and then turned a puck over on the wall, and the Leafs were now scrambling — but Joseph Woll came up with a big save at the backdoor to keep it scoreless.

The first big turning point arrived just three minutes in when a Jake McCabe cross-check to the face on Jake DeBrusk was followed closely by another one on Brad Marchand. McCabe was perhaps thinking that if he was already going to the box, he may as well get his money’s worth with an extra shot at Marchand — a commendable impulse — and maybe see if he could draw a retaliation in the process, but it was too blatant and up high. It should’ve been assessed as a cross-checking double minor.

Instead, seemingly in a case of mistaken identity, the officials gave a roughing call to Matthew Knies and a cross-check to McCabe, setting up a 5-on-3 instead of a four-minute 5-on-4 (a potentially game-changing officiating error).

2.   The Leafs actually survived the first 1:30 of the 5-on-3 thanks to a good shot block by Timothy Liljegren and — after a missed clear by David Kampf — a good save by Woll. That was followed by a quick clearance by Marner following the team’s first change.

When Liljegren returned to the ice after a quick breather, he had the inside track in a loose-puck race against Morgan Geekie and should’ve bumped the Bruins forward hard followed by a quick clearance of the puck; instead, Geekie tied up Liljegren and the puck ended up in his skates, allowing the Bruins to recover possession. It wasn’t a hard/urgent enough play in the circumstances.

From there, Liljegren got caught in between and twisted around on the pass across the top of the crease while not sealing the ice off at all, which made it too easy for DeBrusk to put it flat through the seam onto a platter for Pastrnak. 5-on-3s against elite players usually end in a goal, but you want to at least take away the easiest scoring play on the ice and make them work for it/execute a semi-difficult play.

3.   Down 1-0 on the scoreboard, the Leafs were down 8-1 shots by around midway point after they were stuck in their own zone for a full minute straight. The top line plus a Benoit-Liljegren pairing was worked over by the Marchand line along the walls and at the front of the net, leading to a good chance by Jake DeBrusk at the side of the goal as Liljegren lost positioning on DeBrusk in front.

By the 15-minute mark, it was mostly perimeter, one-and-done activity from the Leafs in the offensive zone, and there were a lot more battles won, sustained pressure, and Bruin pucks and bodies directed at the Leafs’ net. Shots were 10-3 Bruins and Boston held a two-minute advantage in puck-possession time.

Not helping the cause of a tired team, the Leafs also lost Matthew Knies to injury after he collided with Brad Marchand in the offensive zone. Marchand saw the collision coming and held his line/ground on the play more than anything egregiously dirty, but Knies did not see the contact coming until the last minute and decidedly got the worst of it. Knies was knocked out of last year’s Florida series with a concussion, so let’s hope this is merely precautionary (you never want to see multiple head injuries in year one in the league).

With the Leafs caught on a change as the fourth line came on the ice, Joseph Woll made a massive pad save on Justin Brazeau point-blank, and Toronto started to settle in during the final four-to-five minutes of the period. They generated three consecutive offensive-zone shifts, including a pair of top-line shifts bookending a TV timeout, starting with Jarnkrok on the LW before Tavares joined the line for an offensive-zone faceoff. A too-many-men penalty put an end to a credible push from the Leafs that narrowed the shot clock to 10-7 Bruins.

4.   The Leafs survived the kill and were gaining a real foothold in the game during a positive start to the second period. And then William Nylander handed the Bruins a gift.

If we rewind way back to November of 2019, one of the most notable changes under Sheldon Keefe’s offensive systems compared to Mike Babcock’s was the more active use of a high forward in the offensive zone during offensive-zone cycles, providing an outlet for a teammate on the wall instead of just sending it back down the boards or firing a low-percentage shot toward the net. It helps get the puck into the hands of the Leafs’ skilled forwards at the top of the zone with some room to operate, opening up all kinds of passing and shooting options from the middle of the ice and sowing confusion in defensive-zone coverages.

The origin of this turnover was a play/bread-and-butter concept we see the Leafs execute a thousand times throughout the season. Marner and Nylander are particularly effective at maneuvering inside that space and creating shooting lanes and passing plays from that region of the ice while managing the puck/risk well (we’ve seen them generate a bunch of offense from up there over the years). This time, Nylander blew it by not passing it off to Liljegren and hanging on to it too long, leading to a turnover. It happens.

You can’t pin a breakaway goal on a goalie, but the occasional big, timely save is part of the job description, and as breakaway finishes go, I thought this one was particularly stoppable (five-hole from the hashmark on an early release).

5.   At this point, the Leafs had already given up a goal on special teams and handed a gift to the Bruins at five-on-five, putting Toronto 2-0 down in a situation where they really couldn’t afford to be chasing the game (tired on the road in Boston). I wondered if the Leafs were going to simply go away at this point, but they got a nice response shift from the top line with Tyler Bertuzzi on the LW. Bertuzzi drew a double minor — which actually should’ve been a six-minute power play as the high stick drew blood — while battling at the front of the net with Charlie Coyle.

Keefe’s decision to give Bertuzzi semi-regular shifts on the top line once Matthew Knies left the game injured in the Marchand collision was a good call. It’s something that didn’t work at the start of the year when Bertuzzi was still finding his footing on the team, but it’s clearly something the team needed to revisit at some point — the ingredients make too much sense — and this situation presented the right opportunity to do it.

In addition to drawing the double-minor penalty that got the Leafs back in the game, Bertuzzi picked off a pass in the neutral zone and made a play into the middle for Matthews which drew another call (a holding-the-stick penalty on Trent Frederic) a few minutes after Toronto’s 2-1 goal. Bertuzzi then fought Parker Weatherspoon halfway through the second period after rushing in to support Calle Jarnkrok in a scrum, feeding Weatherspoon with a few lefts and a hard right uppercut.

In the run of play, the top line with Bertuzzi on the left wing finished at 15-2 in shot attempts in five minutes and change of five-on-five ice time to go along with three drawn penalties.

The value of Bertuzzi shined through in what Keefe fairly labeled the most physical game of the regular season. A promising sign for playoff time, and I’d like to see some more of this line before then.

6.   The Leafs’ power play was off to a poor start through the first three minutes of the Bertuzzi-drawn double-minor, with sloppy giveaways by Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Max Domi leading to clearances by the Bruins. Everything about it felt slow/static and the execution really wasn’t crisp.

After the top unit was changing back on after Domi’s turnover, the Bruins got greedy shorthanded and forced a play at the offensive-zone blue line, leading to a turnover and the Leafs’ only goal of the night off a power-play breakaway.

A nice quick-up bank pass by Timothy Liljegren to Mitch Marner coming off the bench was really well received and then confidently finished off by Marner into the far side of the net. The Leafs had life with Marner’s 25th of the season and their first power-play goal in 12 opportunities.

7.   When the Leafs went to a power play with a chance to tie it at 2-2, they did set up their down-low pop play to the bumper at one point but the puck hopped on John Tavares, who was back on the top power-play unit. Otherwise, a few more turnovers from Nylander and Matthews led directly to Bruins clearances.

Despite the one goal off the breakaway where the Bruins gave the Leafs a bit of a gift, there wasn’t a whole lot to feel good about on the man advantage as special teams again swung the game in Boston’s direction just as it did earlier in the week. To be really charitable about it, the schedule hasn’t allowed for basically any practice time recently, which will change next week with one game in six days, and they clearly need to spend the time sharpening up the man advantage. It is 1 for its last 14 and has a shorthanded goal against in that time (net zero).

Down 2-1, the Leafs were now leading in shots on goal (17-13) as part of a 7-0 shots run during a pretty strong middle frame overall. They really should’ve tied it on a top-line shift — this time with Calle Jarnkrok on the LW — where Simon Benoit sent a nice backdoor slap pass to Marner, who for some reason — it’s not like the puck bounced on him — double-clutched and didn’t shoot from this position:

It had no bearing on the outcome, but with around five minutes left in the third, Marner also had a one-time opportunity at the side of the goal with an empty net and tried to pull it between his legs around a defender instead of getting off a quick shot. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition watching Marner bear down on breakaways really well all season but then overthink these kinds of looks in tight.

8.   Amid a strong push for the Leafs, a bad fourth-line shift started to turn the momentum the other way in the second period. Multiple ugly defensive-zone turnovers by David Kampf led to Pastrnak slamming one off the post and then a tripping penalty by Noah Gregor in the aftermath.

I understand Keefe’s point about Pontus Holmberg not being hard enough on the puck in a couple of instances in the Boston game on Monday — one directly preceding a goal against — but it’s hard for me to come up with a good reason why Holmberg remained out of the lineup two games in a row unless he’s also among the group battling the flu.

In a tired situation, he would’ve added some fresh legs coming off the scratch vs. Buffalo, and Holmberg – Kampf – Reaves is clearly the best fourth-line combination the Leafs have put together all season (Is it a trade-related showcase for Gregor? Last chance before the waiver wire? It’s all speculation, but I really thought Holmberg would’ve/should’ve been back in tonight).

Morgan Geekie rushing to Charlie McAvoy’s defense after the Gregor trip created a 4-on-4 situation during which John Tavares committed a high-sticking penalty, and the Leafs’ special teams again let them down at a critical stage of the game.

It was again too easy for the Bruins on a backdoor pass. McCabe appeared to be of two minds — unsure if Brodie was getting back in time to grab DeBrusk in front — and ended up in a bad spot with his stick in no position to negate any kind of pass across. Nylander was floating around with his stick off the ice during the preceding sequence. On both goals, there was little sense of coordination/trust/communication when it came to each other’s responsibilities on those down-low plays. It was just far too easy for Boston.

We’ll see if the addition of Joel Edmundson‘s size/length/veteran experience can help out an ailing PK — now at 77.5%/22nd in the NHL — starting on Saturday (and also if Treliving makes any more additions with the PK in mind, including among the forward group).

9.   One minute later, the game was all but over after Brandon Carlo’s seeing-eye wrister from the point clipped Joseph Woll‘s shoulder and found the top corner of the net. There was maybe a partial screen, but it was nothing Woll shouldn’t have been able to work around to make a clean shoulder save. It was a back-breaker in the circumstances, putting the game out of reach with 1:30 left in the period.

The Leafs’ coaching staff showed faith in Woll by splitting up the starts to give him both Boston games while Samsonov took the Sabres start this week. Coming off of Samsnov’s performance against New York last Saturday, it wouldn’t have been unjustified to give Samsonov Monday/Thursday and Woll Wednesday vs. Buffalo. Woll didn’t exactly reward the faith shown by getting outdueled by Jeremy Swayman, but it’s also a little early to make concrete judgments three games into his return from a three-month injury layoff.

There was really not much to note about the actual play on the ice in the third period, but there is something to be said for a bit of message-sending ahead of a possible playoff matchup and a refusal to go away quietly without getting an extra lick in, particularly on the other team’s best players.

Max Domi tried to fight Brad Marchand five minutes into the period — Marchand deadfished it — and later went after Charlie McAvoy before the end of the game, scoring a nice takedown and landing a few punches as the pair went down to the ice. Recall that in the second period, McAvoy caught Nylander in open ice, and Domi clearly noted it at the time by taking a piece of McAvoy on the way by.

This has been a commendable part of Domi’s game throughout the year: He often won’t just lie down and accept a foregone conclusion without getting a pound of flesh first (recall the third-period penalties and eventual game misconduct earlier in the year versus LA when the Leafs were fading to a 4-1 loss, or the penalties and fight vs. Sam Bennett when the Leafs were down in the game and not playing well vs. FLA, among other examples).

10.   This is a tough loss to place for the Maple Leafs. Games against the Bruins are always viewed as referendums on how seriously the Leafs can be taken in regard to their viability at playoff time, and that’s understandable to a degree; measuring-stick games against a big rival are deserving of a little more scrutiny than any old game out of 82. Over the two games this week, there were some concerning signs: the scoring drying up, the team’s best players not bringing their best stuff, losing the goaltending battle, and the special teams underperforming. But the schedule is also the schedule and the circumstances were the circumstances tonight.

One reason why playoff upsets are pretty common in the league — sometimes despite sizable gaps in regular season positioning — is that the league is so tight in general and the two opponents are squaring off on the exact same schedule. This is never the case in the regular season when it can be just as much about when you catch a team as who you’re playing over the long 82-game grind. There is no catching a team tired in a back-to-back or on a 3-in-4 as the Bruins did tonight. Playing tired after traveling against a rested Bruins team is a schedule-loss situation for the Leafs, and they lost a player to injury early in the night to boot.

Before the game, Jim Montgomery was asked whether sweeping the Leafs in the season series would provide a psychological edge in a potential playoff series this spring, and his answer was as clear and no-nonsense as it gets: “Don’t think so. Playoffs are a different animal.”

Of note: The Leafs went 3-0-1 against the Panthers last season.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Joe Bowen & Jim Ralph Game Highlights