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Leafs win away from eliminating Bruins after Game 5 triumph in Boston

Leafs win away from eliminating Bruins after Game 5 triumph in Boston
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Matthews scored his fourth goal of the post-season, leading the Maple Leafs to a heartstopping 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Friday.

Teammates celebrate with Auston Matthews, who opened the scoring in the Leafs’ Game 5 win over the Bruins in Boston on Friday night.  (Steve Babineau / Getty Images)

The Leafs lead the best-of-seven series three games to two and can take their first series since 2004 in Game 6 at home on Sunday.

Matthews, who has scored in three straight games, scored a beauty in a tightly played game in which both sides played a conservative brand of heads-up defensive hockey.

Playing on his off-wing, Matthews one-timed a pass from Jake Muzzin at 11:33 of the third to break the scoreless tie. The goal wasn’t without controversy, with the Bruins challenging for goaltender interference, arguing Zach Hyman had interfered with goalie Tuukku Rask.

Kasperi Kapanen added an insurance goal at 13:45 as the winger shows signs of pulling out of his elongated slump. He assisted on Matthews’ goal. The Leafs needed the second goal when David Krejci scored with 44 seconds left.

It was a pivotal game and both sides knew it. When a best-of-seven series is tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 is 205-55 (78.8 per cent), according to the NHL.

The biggest concern for the Leafs coming in was their penalty kill. It had a few breakdowns in Game 4, leading to two Boston goals in the Bruins’ win. Boston had won the special teams battle through the first four games, and the Leafs took time to work on their special teams at the morning skate.

“Just be aware of everyone out there,” Mitch Marner said. “We talked a lot about how they score a lot off … dirty plays and they got a couple of those last game against us. We’ve just got to make sure we’re aware of everyone on the ice.”

The Leafs needed the penalty killing brush-up, killing one penalty in the first and two in the second. Boston was not penalized at all through the scoreless first two periods.

There wasn’t a lot of space out there, not a lot of risk taking, not a lot of mistakes. Players knew what the stakes were.

A scoreless first, all things considered, was a pretty good result for the Maple Leafs. The Leafs had hope to get out to a fast start, get the lead and take the rowdy TD Garden crowd out of the game. That was the plan, anyway. Boston had scored first in three of the four games so far.

The Leafs didn’t score, but neither did Boston. Instead, most of the period was played in the Boston end. The Leafs didn’t exactly get many scoring chances — a Matthews deflection was their best — but they did everything else right.

Boston didn’t get much by way of sustained pressure until the 17-minute mark, given a power play when Zach Hyman was called for tripping. The Bruins looked good moving the puck, but Frederik Andersen made the stops, while the likes of Frederik Gauthier and Marner made plays to break up Boston’s attack. In a way, it was the period coach Mike Babcock had envisioned.

“You want to have the puck as much as you possibly can. You want to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” said Babcock. “That’s having the puck, that’s executing, that’s being heavy when you have it and keeping it and spending time in the offensive zone. I think in particular when you go on the road, the first 10 minutes is even more critical. Good poise and execution early and be ready to play at a level that’s worthy of a game like this.”

The second was also scoreless, though there was goal celebration when Krejci thought he’d scored. He hit the iron.

The second period belonged to the Bruins, again thanks to two power plays, but again Andersen was there to stop what was coming his way. The best scoring chance for the Leafs belonged to Kapanen, a short-handed breakaway with Marner off for delay of game.

The Bruins got a pre-game boost when Sean Kuraly, who had been out with a fractured hand, returned after five weeks. He played the fourth line.
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