TORONTO — A potent mix of physical play and scoring prowess helped the Bruins salvage a home split of the first two games in their first-round playoff series against Toronto.
They couldn’t repeat that effort Monday night at Scotiabank Arena.
The Maple Leafs shunted the Boston attack en route to a 3-2 victory in Game 3. David Krejci and Charlie Coyle scored in the second period for the Bruins, who will try to pull even in Game 4 on Wednesday.
“I think they were a little more physical tonight than they were in the last game,” said Boston forward Brad Marchand. “Maybe we weren’t as much but it is what it is. It’s over. Worry about the next one.”
Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly set the early tone with a big hit on Karson Kuhlman. Zach Hyman fired up the crowd moments later when he knocked the helmet off Bruins star David Pastrnak with a bruising check.
After a tight opening 20 minutes, play opened up in the second period when all five goals were scored.
Boston did well to answer quickly after Trevor Moore tallied for the Maple Leafs. Jake DeBrusk did the legwork by the crease to get a loose puck to Krejci and he put the Bruins on the board.
The Bruins had a nervous moment later in the period when defenceman Charlie McAvoy knocked Toronto’s John Tavares into Boston goalie Tuukka Rask.
The netminder remained on the ice for a minute and seemed to favour his left shoulder area and neck when he stood up. Rask seemed a little dazed after the play but quickly returned to form.
When the Bruins did play a rougher style, it proved costly.
David Backes took a high-sticking penalty midway through the period and Auston Matthews made Boston pay with a power-play goal 12 seconds after the infraction.
The Bruins’ penalty kill was burned again minutes later when Andreas Johnsson roofed a shot over Rask’s shoulder shortly after Matt Grzelcyk was called for hooking.
“It was unfortunate giving up a couple on the PK,” Marchand said. “We got caught out of position a couple times there … we can clean it up a bit and hopefully be better for the next one.”
Grzelcyk made a smart play on the man advantage late in the second period. The blueliner’s point shot was well wide and came off the boards on the other side of the net, where Coyle buried it to make it a one-goal game.
Boston showed flashes of its 107-point regular-season form but had difficulty creating any sustained pressure in the Toronto zone at even strength.
When the Bruins did threaten, it was often Krejci and Pastrnak pulling the strings.
“We had a couple chances but you’ve got to expect that no one’s going to walk over anyone out there, especially at playoff time,” said Marchand. “So we’re not expecting to dominate out there, I don’t think they’re expecting to dominate any line. They’re a really good team and we’re a really good team.
“We’re a couple points apart in the standings. It’s going to be tight games out there. That’s what we expect. We just have to take advantage of our opportunities when we get them.”
DeBrusk and Toronto forward Nazem Kadri had a running battle throughout Game 2. Kadri was ejected from that game after laying a nasty cross-check on the Bruins’ winger.
Kadri’s suspension for the series was announced shortly before Game 3.
“I actually just was told,” DeBrusk said after the game. “The league handled it. It’s one of those things where I don’t think it’s any use to comment on, to be honest with you.”
The Bruins came out flying in Game 2 and hit every Maple Leaf player in sight. That edge was lacking on the road as Toronto outhit Boston 42-33.
“We knew they were going to push tonight and I thought we did a decent job of kind of getting their wave out of the way,” DeBrusk said. “But in saying that, they had some timely goals and that’s why they won.”
The Maple Leafs took the opener 4-1 and the Bruins rebounded in Game 2 with a 4-1 victory.
“This is the playoffs,” said Krejci. “We’ve been there before. We’ve been up 2-1, we’ve been down 2-1 before. So like I’ve said many times, it’s a new day tomorrow.”
The best-of-seven series will return to Boston for Game 5 on Friday.
Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press