BOSTON – The Boston Bruins don’t need to be reminded what can happen when a team fails to put away an opponent.
The franchise that blew a 3-0 lead against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals is holding a 3-2 lead in the first round of the playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Boston was up three games to one before Toronto won 2-1 in Game 5 on Friday night.
“The one thing that has been a challenge for us in the past has been closing out series,” Coach Claude Julien said after practice on Saturday.
“And we know that; we’re aware of that. But at the same time, the strength of our team has also been to bounce back from adversity and situations like that.”
The teams will meet again on Sunday night in Toronto, where Boston won Games 3 and 4 to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. The Bruins have not lost on the Leafs’ home ice in the playoffs since 1959 — having routed Toronto in the 1969, 1972 and 1974 postseasons. “It doesn’t give you a sense of confidence,” Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said, “but you’re not as afraid to go into that building.”
Tyler Bozak scored a shorthanded goal, Clarke MacArthur also scored and James Reimer stopped 43 shots on Friday night as Toronto withstood a late and furious challenge in the second and third periods to avoid elimination.
“We’re still kicking,” Toronto defenseman Cody Franson said. “We didn’t get the results we were looking for back home in the last two, but it wasn’t from lack of trying.”
The Maple Leafs opened a 2-0 lead and held on as Boston outshot them 32-8 for the latter part of the second period and all of the third.
Zdeno Chara scored for Boston to cut the deficit to 2-1 with 8:48 left. The Leafs killed off a delay-of-game penalty in the last four minutes and then protected the lead when the Bruins pulled goaltender Tuukka Rask for an extra attacker with 1:11 left.
“We came in with the mindset to just get it back to Toronto to give ourselves a chance. We’ve done that,” MacArthur said. “We want to keep going. We’ve worked hard all year and I can see it starting to pay off.”
The Bruins are 4-8 in games with the potential to eliminate an opponent since 2010, including the four straight losses to Philadelphia in the second round that year. In all, the Bruins are 15-2 in series after going up three games to one.
And, a year after blowing the three-game lead against Philadelphia, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup
“Since I’ve been here, it’s never been easy, right?” Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. “Once again, we’re not making it easy on ourselves. So let’s hope we can make it easy by winning Game 6 and not having to go to Game 7.”
Boston could get a boost from the return of Wade Redden, who missed Game 5 with an undisclosed injury. The veteran defenseman, picked up from St. Louis late in the season on waivers, was back at practice on Saturday, though Julien said he remained day to day.