TORONTO – The Maple Leafs increased their shots and hits in Game 3 against Boston. Their mistakes also went up, and that was enough for the Bruins to win 5-2 Monday night.
Adam McQuaid, Rich Peverley, Nathan Horton, Daniel Paille and David Krejci, with an empty-net goal with 1:17 remaining, scored for Boston, a playoff-savvy squad that came out with an edge. And left with a 2-1 edge in the series.
“I think, as a team, we played a good road game,” Krejci said. “Maybe we didn’t have as many chances in Game 1 (a 4-1 Boston win), but I think it was a perfect road game and I’m pretty happy about that.”
Game 4 is Wednesday night.
The loss came before 19,746 amped-up fans inside the Air Canada Centre. Outside, a blue-and-white throng watched on a big screen in Maple Leaf Square as playoff hockey returned to Toronto for the first time since 2004.
“The crowd was awesome,” said Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk. “One of the loudest I think I’ve played in front of in the NHL.”
Didn’t make much difference in the end. Toronto’s errors did.
“They made less mistakes than we did and their execution level was above ours,” Toronto Coach Randy Carlyle said.
“Mistakes just killed us tonight,” echoed defenseman Jake Gardiner, who scored his first playoff goal.
The dominant line of Milan Lucic, Krejci and Horton finished with two goals and six assists. They have combined for 17 points through the first three postseason games, with five goals and 12 assists.
Veteran Jaromir Jagr also showed off his skills, setting up a goal and controlling the puck as if it was glued to his stick.
“Vintage Jagr in the offensive zone,” Boston Coach Claude Julien said of the longtime NHL star.
Phil Kessel accounted for the other Toronto goal in a physical game.
The Leafs charged hard in the third period, outshooting Boston 18-6 for a 47-38 overall edge. But Tuukka Rask stood tall in the Boston goal.
“They came out in the third a desperate team,” said Julien.
It was the first Leafs’ home playoff game since May 4, 2004, when Toronto lost 3-2 in overtime to Philadelphia to lose the conference semifinals, 4-2. Fans were rewarded for patience with free scarves, but not with a win.
For the Bruins, the playoffs are business as usual. Boston, which won the Stanley Cup two years ago, is in the postseason for the sixth straight year.
Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference returned from his one-game suspension. Rookie Dougie Hamilton, who replaced Ference on Saturday, dropped out of the lineup.
The Bruins had an edge about them and scored first when McQuaid’s shot from the point beat Reimer to the stick side. Boston went ahead 2-0 when 41-year-old Jagr, who was lively all night, stripped Ryan O’Byrne of the puck behind the goal and fed Peverley, who stuffed it past a helpless Reimer.
Dion Phaneuf hit the Boston goalpost after skating in from the point and taking a perfect pass from Nikolai Kulemin. Then Gardiner got the fans out of their seats when Bruin penalty killer Chris Kelly’s failed clearance went to him. Gardiner skated in from the blue-line and snapped a shot over the glove of Rask for his first playoff goal.
The fans were still celebrating — inside and outside the building — when Lucic cruised down the left wing and sent a laser-like pass to Horton, who beat Reimer.
The Bruins’ onslaught continued as Kessel gave up the puck on a power play and Paille raced in alone to beat Reimer with a backhand.
An opportunistic Kessel closed the gap to 4-2 just 47 seconds into the third period. Rask slid out of position and Kessel fired it into the net over a sliding Bruin.
That earned another round of “Thank you, Kessel” chants. There wouldn’t be enough of them for the Leafs, though.