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BOSTON -- Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series for the Boston Bruins had an ending similar to many of their regular-season games this year.
Too many times during the lockout-shortened, 48-game season, the Bruins struggled to build momentum too often and that's exactly what happened again on Saturday as the Toronto Maple Leafs evened the best-of-seven series at one game apiece with a 4-2 win at TD Garden.
The series now shifts to Toronto for Game 3 at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night.
It's almost inconceivable the Bruins could play so well in Game 1 of this series -- a 4-1 victory last Wednesday -- then follow it up with a completely different effort in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
|A rash of defensive breakdowns and Toronto odd-man rushes doomed the Bruins.|
"We lost track of what we did so well in the first game," defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "We didn't pick up where we left off the first game. Now it has to be worked on on our side and I'm sure we're going to do that."
In the Bruins' locker room after the loss, it was evident the players knew they had faltered and allowed the Maple Leafs a big confidence boost with a win on the road.
"We certainly weren't as good. They were better, there's no doubt there," coach Claude Julien said. "They played a much better game than they did in Game 1 and we didn't play quite as well as we did in the first game."
After a horrible loss in Game 1, Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle made the proper adjustments and it was evident Saturday night.
"The tempo of the game was a lot different from our standpoint," Carlyle said. "We moved the puck more effectively. We didn't turn it over and that was the biggest difference between tonight and Wednesday. We just didn't self-destruct; we worked hard and we competed and got a few breaks to go our way."
It's the playoffs and in a series like this one, with two physical and fast teams, Julien knew the Maple Leafs would make adjustments after Wednesday's 4-1 loss.
"We were prepared for those adjustments, but our execution wasn't as good tonight," Julien said. "The breakdowns that we had defensively were poor breakdowns on our part and we gave them a lot of outnumbered situations.
"We have to be better defensively in order to be better offensively. Our team, when it's good defensively, it creates chances offensively. We turn pucks over and we go on the attack. But tonight, not quite as good as we were in Game 1."
Boston's physical game wasn't as potent in Game 2. This time, the Maple Leafs hit back and it took the Bruins off their game.
"They came to play tonight, that's for sure," David Krejci said. "They played way better than they did in Game 1. We expected them to come out hard, the way they did, basically. I think we should have been a little more ready. We were preparing ourselves for a good game, but it just didn't happen today."
"We didn't answer enough," Seidenberg said. "We were the ones in the first game who initiated, and it was them this time. We didn't respond the way we were supposed to. We have to forget about this one."
The Bruins had too many defensive breakdowns, and as a result they allowed too many odd-man rushes. That's a problem against a fast team such as the Maple Leafs and Toronto capitalized on those quality chances.
Toronto's forecheck was much better in Game 2 and the Maple Leafs were able to get pucks deep and create sustained pressure in Boston's end. Those adjustments had an effect on Boston's breakout, which was one of the Bruins' strengths in Game 1. The Maple Leafs forced turnovers because Boston was not clean coming out of its own end.
The absence of Andrew Ference, who was serving a one-game suspension for his illegal hit on the Maple Leafs' Mikhail Grabovski in Game 1, also was evident.
"He's a good player and he's experienced, but we've got to pick up the slack, communicate better and be better as a whole," Seidenberg said.
Julien was forced to break up his top defensive pairing of Zdeno Chara and Seidenberg in order to give the blue line a little more balance. Rookie Dougie Hamilton, a healthy scratch for six of the last nine regular-season games and during Game 1 of this series, was back in the lineup and paired with Wade Redden.
"Dougie played a solid game and did what he had to do," Julien said.
On the offensive side, Boston's third line remains inconsistent in both production and personnel. Veteran forward Rich Peverley, who was a healthy scratch in Game 1, was back alongside Chris Kelly and Jaromir Jagr. Kaspars Daugavins, who played on that line in Game 1, was a healthy scratch Saturday.
Peverley, Kelly and Jagr appeared lost on the ice, especially the 41-year-old future Hall of Famer.
"Obviously we'd like to get that third line going, and right now I can't say it's going the way we'd like," Julien said. "But we're at a stage here where we don't have much of a choice. We're at the end of the year and certain guys came in real late.
"Whether it's [Carl] Soderberg, whether it's [Jagr] and he missed the last couple of games [Jagr had the flu], so we haven't had much of a chance to work that line in. So certainly it's not the line that we're hoping it was going to be, but you've got to hope that as you move forward here it gets better."
After a scoreless first period, Nathan Horton's relentless hustle in front of the net gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 1:56 of the second period.
Toronto tied the game at 1-1 when the Maple Leafs' Joffrey Lupul scored the first of his two goals, a power-play strike, at 5:18 of the second period. He added his second at 11:56 of the second period to give Toronto a 2-1 lead.
The Maple Leafs gained a 3-1 lead when Phil Kessel scored only 53 seconds into the third period with Chara on the bench. The Bruins cut their deficit to 3-2 on Johnny Boychuk's second goal of the playoffs at 10:35 of the third, but Toronto answered when James van Riemsdyk scored at 16:53 for a 4-2 final.
From Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask's standpoint, it was clear why the Maple Leafs were the better team.
"Well, they had more shots," Rask said. "They had more speed through the neutral zone, they created a lot of tips in front and they battled for those loose pucks in front of the net and they really got rewarded. So I think there's something defensively maybe we would like to be a little stronger in front of our own net."
The Bruins also spent too much time in the penalty box, which stifled the team's line flow. Chara served two penalties, and Brad Marchand and Rich Peverley also were whistled for infractions. Other than Mark Fraser's fight with the Bruins' Shawn Thornton with one second remaining in the game, the Maple Leafs had only one penalty in the game.
"We have to stay disciplined, that's for sure," Krejci said. "We took so many penalties. You want to get that flow with all four lines, but when there's so many penalties, it's tough for Coach to play the guys, so we have to stay disciplined in Game 3 and keep rolling the lines."
In the closing seconds of the game, Thornton did what he had to do in order to send a message to his teammates and the Leafs. In the locker room after the loss, Thornton was slamming doors and obviously was not happy with the team's performance.
"They were a much hungrier team and it showed," Chara said. "We know we've got to be better. Nobody said it was going to be easy, and we know that we can be a lot better, so we've just got to get ready for the next game."