Maple Leafs eliminated from NHL playoffs with Game 7 overtime loss to Bruins

Sheldon Keefe told his players that hockey history would remember them in one way or another.

Down 3-1 in their first-round playoff series a week ago, this version of the Maple Leafs, left for dead by fans and media alike, could turn around and book their tee times.

Or stand back and fight.

Keefe had no complaints after his group battled injuries and illnesses to push a patient and defensively strong opponent to the limit.

In the end, however, that effort was still not enough.

David Pastrnak scored at 1:54 of overtime on Saturday as the Boston Bruins beat Toronto 2-1 in Game 7 to advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“I love how our team fought to put us in this position,” said Keefe, whose powerful offense produced just 12 goals and finished 1 for 21 on the power play. “You don’t love the hole we dug ourselves. That’s a big reason we’re here, but we love our team’s fight.

“Difficult circumstances.”

Hampus Lindholm scored in regulation and added an assist on the game-winning goal for the Bruins, who avoided becoming the first club in NHL history to blow consecutive 3-1 series leads after losing to Florida Panthers at the same stage as last time. spring postseason.

Jeremy Swayman made 30 saves. Boston will face the rested Panthers in the second round in South Florida starting Monday.

Boston Bruins’ Justin Brazeau (55) watches as Hampus Lindholm’s shot enters the net behind Toronto Maple Leafs’ Ilya Samsonov (35) during the third period of Game 7 of a Stanley Cup first-round playoff series NHL hockey on Saturday. May 4, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)“Great moment,” said Pastrnak, who scored his fourth goal of the playoffs after being removed by head coach Jim Montgomery after Game 6.

“A little relief too…we couldn’t be more proud of ourselves.”

William Nylander, who missed the first three games with a migraine that clouded his vision, answered for the Leafs. Toronto fought back to force Game 7 with two straight wins minus ailing star sharpshooter Auston Matthews.

“It sucks,” Nylander said. “Feeling of emptiness.”

Ilya Samsonov stopped 29 shots after Joseph Woll, who was outstanding in Games 5 and 6 to help drag his team back to the series, suffered an injury late in the third period of Thursday’s victory that led to the showdown. from the Original Six to seven.

Matthews was removed from the lineup in Game 4 due to illness and then missed the final two games with Toronto facing elimination before returning to action at much less than 100 percent on Saturday.

Pastrnak took the series after Lindholm fired a puck off the end boards. The winger won a run and then tackled Samsonov to the ice and sent the Leafs home.

“We were there,” Matthews said. “It didn’t go the way we wanted.”

Nylander received a pass from Matthews, who led the NHL with 69 goals in the regular season, with 10:59 left in regulation to give Toronto a 1-0 lead.

But Lindholm tied it 1:21 later with a short jumper following intense pressure around the Toronto crease to light up the TD Garden before the teams headed to overtime.

“It’s hard to talk now,” Samsonov said. “The season is over for us.”

Woll replaced the Russian to start the third period of Game 4 and allowed just two goals in more than 140 minutes of action as Toronto, now 1-17 all-time when trailing a 3-1 series, roared back. return. even the confrontation of the Original Six.

“It’s very difficult not to move forward,” Leafs captain John Tavares said. “Especially with the type of team we have, the type of character that is here and just the belief in the locker room.

“Very proud of the group.”

The Bruins got off to a much better start than in Games 5 and 6 before Leafs defenseman Joel Edmundson crushed Pastrnak with a clean hit.

Toronto’s best chance of the period came when Matthew Knies beat Jake DeBrusk for a 50/50 puck and found Nylander, who scored twice in Game 6, in the slot for a chance that Swayman converted.

Boston got the first power play of the night in the second, but Mitch Marner had the best chance when the Bruins netminder gave the puck away.

The Leafs then fell to 1 for 21 with a fruitless man advantage before Toronto winger Connor Dewar escaped shorthanded.

Knies then got another run out of the box only to see Kevin Shattenkirk knock the puck off his stick and send the Toronto rookie crashing into Swayman.

Toronto fought back to force Game 7 despite being without Matthews for a pair of 2-1 wins, including an overtime win on the road in Game 5.

The Leafs, who won a postseason series for the first time in two decades last spring, also were without Nylander in those first three games because of that migraine and what would potentially be a concussion.

The Swede needed two games to recover before scoring those two goals Thursday that helped tie the series and send the teams back to Boston.

“It’s hard to explain exactly what it is,” Nylander said. “My vision gets messed up, I can’t really see with my eyes, it gets messed up. It’s hard to play.”

Despite the valiant attempt, Toronto has lost six straight Game 7s, including four in a row to the Bruins (2013, 2018, 2019 and 2024).

There will also be questions about Keefe’s future after a fourth first-round exit in five seasons, along with Marner, who has one year left on his contract and can sign an extension on July 1.

The Leafs, as a whole, will now pick up the pieces and reflect, as the franchise’s Cup drought is now at 57 years.

“The group came together to give us a chance,” Keefe said. “I love and appreciate that part of our group.

“It’s hard to lose and it’s a hard path to follow.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2024.

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