Matthews leads Maple Leafs past Bruins 3-2 for 2-1 lead
TORONTO (AP) — With the Toronto Maple Leafs back home, Auston Matthews finally broke through against Boston.
Matthews scored his first goal of the playoffs and set up another as the Maple Leafs beat the Bruins 3-2 on Monday night to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
“It’s nice to get one,” said Matthews, who had just two points against Boston in the 2018 postseason. “It’s just another level when you score a goal in the playoffs, especially at home.
“I’ve said this before, it feels like an earthquake under you. The atmosphere tonight was unbelievable and we just want to continue what we built off tonight here on Wednesday.”
Andreas Johnsson, also with a goal and an assist, and Trevor Moore provided the rest of the offense for Toronto. Frederik Andersen made 34 saves.
David Krejci and Charlie Coyle scored for Boston. Tuukka Rask stopped 31 shots in front of a crowd of 19,611.
“They played hard,” Bruins winger Brad Marchand said. “They upped their compete level. Ours wasn’t as good as it needed to be. But we’re right there — we had some opportunities to tie it up late.
“The difference was special teams. We’ll clean it up and get ready for the next one.”
The Maple Leafs won the series opener 4-1 last Wednesday in Boston before losing by the same score Saturday. Game 4 is Wednesday night in Toronto.
Less than an hour before puck drop, the Maple Leafs learned center Nazem Kadri was suspended for the rest of the series for his vicious cross-check to the head of Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk in the third period of Game 2.
“I actually just was told,” DeBrusk said after the game. “The league handled it. It’s one of those things where I don’t think it’s any use to comment on, to be honest with you.”
All five goals came in the second period.
Toronto took a 1-0 lead at 2:38 when Moore poked a loose puck home for his first career playoff goal after Morgan Rielly’s initial shot rattled around between Rask’s pads.
Boston replied 52 seconds later when Krejci chipped a bouncing puck past Andersen.
Matthews put Toronto back in front just 12 seconds after David Backes was whistled for high-sticking, taking a feed from Johnsson and burying his first beyond an outstretched Rask to send the crowd into a frenzy at 10:12.
Mitch Marner, who scored twice in Game 1 but was held in check along with most of his teammates Saturday, made the initial play to Johnsson off the offensive zone draw.
Criticized for his play in Boston’s seven-game victory over Toronto in the first round last spring, the 21-year-old Matthews was immediately serenaded by chants of “Aus-ton! Matth-ews!” by the crowd.
Promoted to the first power-play unit because of Kadri’s suspension, Johnsson made it 3-1 with his first career playoff goal with 2:48 left in the period when he roofed a backhand over Rask after a nice feed from John Tavares as Toronto connected for a second time on the man advantage after going 0 for 4 in the first two games.
“It was unfortunate giving up a couple on the PK,” Marchand said. “We got caught out of position a couple times there.”
Matthews picked up the second assist to match his point total from last year’s series against the Bruins.
Boston responded on a power play of its own with 37.3 seconds left in the period when Coyle collected a puck off the end boards to score his second of the series.
The Bruins got a power play five minutes into the third when Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev fired the puck over the glass for a delay-of-game penalty, but Toronto’s penalty kill held firm against a man advantage that has connected in every game this series.
After Matthews and Johnsson had chances to make it 4-2 that Rask kept out, Andersen made a diving stop with the knob of his stick on Krejci to keep his team ahead.
“They’re a really good team and we’re a really good team,” Marchand said. “We’re a couple points apart in the standings. It’s going to be tight games out there. That’s what we expect. We just have to take advantage of our opportunities when we get them.”
Boston kept up the pressure with Rask on the bench for an extra attacker, but Toronto held on despite some tense moments late — including two key blocks from Marner.
“That’s what you’ve got to do to win,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “Ideally, all those things are contagious. When you see your teammate do something like that, you’re more likely to do it yourself.”
Kadri traveled to New York for an in-person hearing, meaning the NHL had the option to suspend him for more than five games. The 28-year-old, who has been suspended five times since 2013, will miss anywhere from three to five games, but the ban won’t stretch into the second round of these playoffs or next season.
William Nylander slid over from the wing to take Kadri’s place on Toronto’s third line behind between Patrick Marleau and Connor Brown.
DeBrusk suited up after leaving Game 2 following the hit by Kadri, while Bruins defenseman Torey Krug was also good to go despite leaving Saturday after taking a huge hit from Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin.
NOTES: Game 5 is set for Friday in Boston. Game 6, if necessary, would be back in Toronto on Sunday. ... Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton sat out with an undisclosed injury, while winger Marcus Johansson missed a second consecutive game with an illness.
The Bruins will try to even the series again Wednesday night in Game 4.