June 22, 2024

The Toronto Maple Leafs host the struggling Boston Bruins Monday night with a chance to tighten the race in the Atlantic Division.

The Maple Leafs drew within six points — with two games in hand — of the second-place Bruins in the division with a home 4-3 shootout win over the New York Rangers on Saturday night.

Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery reflects on near perfect first half

The Bruins, meanwhile, lost 5-1 on the road to the New York Islanders on Saturday in a listless effort that left them two points behind the first-place Florida Panthers.

“We’ve got to look at why we didn’t start on time and little things at how we can get better. But our execution was pretty poor to start the game,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said.

The Bruins also lost Pavel Zacha (lower-body injury) late in the first period, and he did not return. Boston is missing defenseman Hampus Lindholm (undisclosed injury) and did not have Matt Grzelcyk (lower body) Saturday.

The Bruins problems were deeper than that.

“We just weren’t good enough and weren’t firm enough. Didn’t start the game on time,” Montgomery said. “So, it’s one of those games where for whatever reason we weren’t very good, and we’ve got to move on to Toronto now and get ready for a team that’s playing really well.”

“There’s these days that you go through where things just aren’t good,” Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo said. “I don’t think our effort was there to begin with and it kind of lacked throughout most of the game.”

The Bruins’ slide endangers their prospects of having home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The Bruins and Maple Leafs meet again Thursday in Boston.

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Boston is 4-4-5 since the All-Star break and has allowed three or more goals in each of the past 11 games.

Toronto has won nine of 10.

The Maple Leafs allowed the tying goal at 18:53 of the third period Saturday before salvaging the extra point when Max Domi scored the decisive shootout goal.

Ilya Samsonov gave Toronto a solid 32-save performance in goal.

He stopped Artemi Panarin at 2:45 of overtime, when he sprawled to his right to make the save with his stick and blocker.

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“That was amazing,” said Mitchell Marner, who scored Toronto’s first goal. “This game could be a very different result if Sammy doesn’t make a couple big saves.”

“First, I like the two points,” Samsonov said. “We played together, we stayed hard fighting. It was an interesting game for fans, for everybody.”

William Nylander scored Toronto’s second goal to extend his points streak to 10 games (eight goals, 10 assists).

Nylander was benched for the second half of the first period after missing an assignment on New York’s first goal by Alexis Lafreniere.

“Willy knows what we need from him, and in that moment (on Lafreniere’s goal), I met with that line yesterday on some very specific things, and that wasn’t it, so that’s the way it goes, but I loved how he responded,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Obviously, a great goal, an important goal for us, but I just thought he dug in and competed a lot harder.”

Toronto defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin (head) left the game in the second period after taking a hard hit. He was playing in his first game after being acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday.

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