They came to play these Maple Leafs did.
Anything to extend the series to keep the magic going and bring it back home to T.O. and their fans for at least one more dance with the Bruins.
They competed. They sacrificed. They entertained. But most importantly, astonishingly, they won. A 2-1 score that could have been inflated by several goals were it not for the superb goaltending on both ends of the rink. One thing is certain though: James Reimer has shown he can be a big game goalie, bending but not breaking. He turned back 18 of 19 shots in the third period when the ice seemed tilted as the Leafs could manage only four.
The Leafs forced a Game 6 here Sunday night showing decisively they’re not going to be pushed around by these bruising — though not as bruising two years ago –Bruins. The pressure has now shifted to the favoured Bruins to get this thing done and move on. But the Leafs will have something to say about that.
The game started off like a five-alarm fire that had the Bruins swarming the Leafs in an all out attack for what seemed a lot longer than the nearly two minutes it was. It looked like it would just be seconds before they put one behind Reimer and throw the first shovels of dirt in burying the Leafs.
The Leafs withstood that onslaught then proceeded to put their own foot on the accelerator, creating some wild scoring chances from Lupul, Van Riemsdyk and Grabovski who continues to misfire, unable to bury it in close on a diving Tuukka Rask. Still, after the initial Bruins assault, it was the Leafs best period of the series so far as they bombarded the Bruins, firing 19 shots on Rask who turned all of them away.
That was the rhythm of this see-saw, super-charged game in a nutshell: each team in turns produced multiple scoring chances to blow this thing wide open. It could easily have been a 6-5 or 5-4 barn-burner. The Bruins outshot the Leafs in the final two frames, 19-4 in the third, but it was the Leafs who held the daggers this night on a breakaway goal by Tyler Bozak in the second and Clarke MacArthur swooped in from the left wing early in the third and backhanded a beauty behind a sprawling Rask that turned out to be the winner. Both of those raised the roof if you were a Leafs fan and for a time you had to think, “We can do this. We can beat these guys.”
Well they did. And did it with the kind of character, talent and grit that would make the most seasoned of playoff teams proud. With this kind of hard-won victory Toronto is showing with this young squad they can play with that kind of poise and intensity in a hostile environment.
They’ve brought it back home still down 3-2 in the series. Only now the daunting long-shot odds before last night’s game just got shorter.