Bruins Comeback Bid Falls Short in Loss to Maple Leafs

Former University of New Hampshire star James Van Riemsdyk scored two goals including the game-winner vs the Boston Bruins in Boston. (photo: espn.com)

Saturday night was alright for fighting and goal scoring at a sold-out TD Garden in Boston. The good news for the Bruins was that defenseman Adam McQuaid won an epic heavyweight fight with Maple Leafs forward Matt Martin. It was also good news that Boston put five pucks behind Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen. The bad news was, Andersen’s teammates scored six goals against Bruins goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Zane McIntyre to leave Boston with a 6-5 victory that also saw them climb to within one point of third-place Boston in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins (26-23-6) have five games in hand on Toronto (24-17-9).

In a game that had all the earmarks of playoff hockey, Boston’s David Pastrnak opened the scoring 2:17 into the first period but Toronto would score the next four goals with William Nylander lighting the lamp three times and former University of New Hampshire star James Van Riemsdyk scoring his first of two goals on the night putting their club in a commanding 4-1 lead.

With the Maple Leafs holding onto that lead halfway through the game, Boston took a page out of the history books and mounted a three-goal comeback just as it had in the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs versus these same Maple Leafs but not before McQuaid and Martin waged their 45-second bout at center ice that ended with McQuaid landing a right-hand flush on Martin’s jaw that dropped the big Leaf winger. That bout energized the Boston fans and players.

Move forward to 2017 and the comeback began on Pastrnak’s second goal of the game followed by goals from Torey Krug and Ryan Spooner with Spooner’s coming with 9:54 to play in the third period.

Boston would control the play throughout the third period but history would not repeat itself on this night.

Toronto rookie, Connor Brown put his team on top 5-4 with 4:45 remaining in the period.

Patrice Bergeron answered Brown’s goal with 2:54 to play to tie the score at 5-5 in a rocking TD Garden but Van Riemsdyk put an end to the Bruins hopes of pulling out the win by scoring his second goal of the game to give his club the lead, 6-5, with 1:36 remaining in the third period.

“You’re always disappointed when you lose a game like that, because it was a real important game for us,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said in his postgame press conference. “So you say, ‘What do you take from it?’ Well, I think I can still take the fact that we battled back, and (Adam) McQuaid stood up and woke some of the guys up with that scrap. It seemed to give us some life, so I think the guys when they’re down four-one, they didn’t pack their bags and leave. We fought back, so you like those kinds of things, but at the end of the night, it’s about winning hockey games, and I have to say that tonight, we found a way to lose. So that’s the disappointing part.”

Nylander and Van Riemsdyk were not the only multi-point producers for Toronto. Super-rookie Auston Matthews assisted on three goals for the Maple Leafs. Brown added an assist for a two-point night and Mitch Marner posted two assists.

“I think we stuck together as a team,” Van Riemsdyk said. “You saw it out there. We just keep battling the whole game, so at the end, it’s a little bit of a hectic game, but we stuck together and kept playing the whole way.”

The Bruins had five players with two or more points. Pastrnak added and assist for a three point evening while Bergeron accumulated a goal and two assists. Krug added one assist to go along with his goal as did Spooner. Captain Zdeno Chara registered three assists.

Following the game, Bergeron acknowledged that after coming back the way the Bruins did, the end result was a bitter pill to swallow.

“We knew how important those two points in that game was and it’s very disappointing and frustrating at the same time, you can’t give up six goals if you want to win any hockey game,” Bergeron said. “The last thing you want to do is claw your way back all the time and, you know, down by three goals, if you prevent that it makes it a lot easier on us and then we have a much better chance to come out with the win.”

Pastrnak added that the Bruins need to remember the lessons learned from this loss and begin preparing for their next game.

“Yeah, you know, we are disappointed (in) this game,” Pastrnak, who has 22 goals on the season, said. “We couldn’t get it done even though we came so many times. It’s too bad. We can’t hang our heads; we have to learn from this and be ready for next game.”

That next game for Boston will be at home against the defending Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks on Thursday (7:00 pm ET; NESN, SN360, SNW, TVA Sports, CSN-CA, NHL.TV).

Toronto moves on to Brooklyn, New York to face off against the New York Islanders on Monday. (7:00 pm; SN, MSG+2, NHL.TV)

Game Notes:

  •  The contest was the 300th in a Maple Leafs sweater for Van Riemsdyk.
  • David Pastrnak has 18 points in his last 15 games.
  • Boston’s Bergeron has a five-game point streak (three goals, five assists).
  • With an assist on the game-winning goal, Toronto’s Tyler Bozak reached the 300 point mark for his NHL career.
  • For the fifth time this season, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was pulled from the game. He was replaced by backup netminder Zane McIntyre after Toronto’s Nylander opened a 3-1 lead over Boston at 9:09 of the second period.
  • Boston held the advantage in total shots on goal 41-26.
  • Oh brother. Friday, Trevor Van Riemsdyk (younger brother of James) scored the game-winning goal for the Chicago Blackhawks versus the Dallas Stars.

Follow ESPN New Hampshire NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.

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