By Neil Becker
The Toronto Maple Leafs made a loud statement on Tuesday night by taking over sole procession of the third spot in the Atlantic Division.
Riding the momentum of a Sunday night 5-2 win at Scotiabank Arena against the Atlantic Division-leading Florida Panthers, the Leafs were facing another big challenge.
In what could easily be a preview to a first-round playoff matchup, the Leafs were at TD Garden on Tuesday where they were taking on a red-hot Bruins team who were riding a four-game winning streak. Toronto’s offense proved too much for Boston as they got two-point performances from Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly, and John Tavares in a 6-4 win.
With the win, Toronto has now with only 16 regular-season games remaining moved two points ahead of Boston in the Atlantic Division and only one point behind the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning for second.
A positive for Leafs fans besides the two points was forward Auston Matthews who continued his march towards 50 by scoring and re-taking the NHL goal lead with his 49th which came in the second period on the power play.
Also playing a solid game was forward Colin Blackwell who scored his first goal since coming over to Toronto from the Seattle Kraken at the NHL trade deadline.
On this night, the Leafs didn’t escape unscathed as starting goalie Petr Mrazek was injured early in the first and a couple of defencemen in Justin Holl and Lya Lyubushkin were hurt.
Looking for that fast start, Toronto opened the scoring when a little past the five-minute mark Blackwell scored his ninth goal which came on a redirection off a Jason Spezza pass.
That lead wouldn’t last long as Boston responded 50 seconds later as forward David Pastrnak on the power play scored his 38th goal on his signature one-timer to tie things up.
The turning point came halfway through the first period when the Leafs offense caught fire.
Showing why they should be looked upon as Stanley Cup contenders, the Leafs pulled ahead on two more first-period goals from defenceman Morgan Rielly with this eighth at the 9:43 mark followed by forward Alex Kerfoot who with less than two minutes remaining scored his eleventh on a breakaway.
Continuing to take control, the Leafs outshot Boston by a 14-9 record period count and increased their lead as Marner scored his 28th at 8:28 followed by goals from Matthews with his 49th on the Power Play and David Kampf with his ninth at 16:47.
The Bruins put a scare into the Leafs as they got a late second-period goal from Jake DeBrusk with his 17th followed by two more in the third from forwards Curtis Lazar at the 13:02 mark and Taylor Hall who rounded out the scoring at 17:38 with his 15th goal.
Note- Leafs backup goalie Erik Kallgren came into the game at 7:44 of the first for an injured Mrazek. The rookie made 26 saves on 29 shots.
The Leafs will be off until Thursday, March 31st. when they are back at Scotiabank Arena for a 7 p.m. face-off against the Winnipeg Jets. This will be a challenging game for the Leafs as Winnipeg is playing desperate hockey looking to get back into the playoff picture.
1st. Period TOR-BOS
5:09 Colin Blackwell (9) 1 – 0
Jason Spezza (11)
5:59 PPG David Pastrnak (38) 1 – 1
Patrice Bergeron (30), Charlie McAvoy (35)
9:43 Morgan Rielly (8) 2 – 1
William Nylander 36), John Tavares (40)
18:44 Alex Kerfoot (11) 3 – 1
2nd. Period TOR – BOS
8:28 Mitch Marner (28) 4 – 1
Auston Matthews (36). Michael Bunting (31)
16:00 PPG Auston Matthews (49) 5 – 1
John Tavares (41), Mitch Marner (48)
16:47 David Kampf (9) 6 – 1
Morgan Rielly (46)
18:19 Jake DeBrusk (17) 6 – 2
Charlie McAvoy (36), Brad Marchand (38)
3 rd. Period TOR – BOS
13:02 Curtis Lazar (7) 6 – 3
Connor Clifton (6), Tomas Nosek (12)
17:38 Taylor Hall (15) 6 – 4
David Pastrnak (30), Derek Forbort (7)