'WE'LL TAKE IT': A better Maple Leafs effort earns a point in Boston against unbeaten Bruins

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Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark got their customary post-game hug with each other following another Boston Bruins win on Thursday.

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The Maple Leafs made Swayman, who got the call in the Bruins net, work for it at TD Garden in Boston.

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Toronto bounced back after a pitiful effort against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, earning a point in a 3-2 shootout loss against a Boston club, now 9-0-1, that has yet to lose in regulation.

Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle scored in the shootout, beating Ilya Samsonov, while William Nylander and Auston Matthews failed to score on Swayman.

“The guys worked hard,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “You want to get two points every time you come into a building, but it’s a tough game and to come away with one and a chance to get a second in a shootout, we’ll take it.”

The Leafs were short a defenceman after the first period when Timothy Liljegren was injured on a trip by Brad Marchand.

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“He’s going to miss, it looks like, significant time,” Keefe said of Liljegren. “We’re not going to know for sure until we get home and get a picture. It’s not short-term at this point.”

It’s possible the Leafs will recall Simon Benoit or Maxime Lajoie from the Toronto Marlies before kicking off a five-game home stand on Saturday, when the Buffalo Sabres visit. Fellow defenceman Jake McCabe continues to recover from a groin injury and isn’t ready to return.

Nylander extended his point streak to start a season to 10 games when he assisted on Mitch Marner’s goal.

If the glass is half empty, it’s that the Leafs were unable to beat a Bruins team that was beset by injuries, especially on the blue line. 

Again, there was a lack of secondary scoring by the Leafs, who got goals from Matthews and Marner. 

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Tyler Bertuzzi was a non-factor, getting few shifts in the third period, and Max Domi had one shot on goal. The Leafs aren’t getting close to enough from either.

“He just needs to simplify his game,” Keefe said of Bertuzzi. “We had a very simple plan and he failed to execute that.”

Despite the better effort, the Leafs have lost three in a row in any manner for the first time since Oct. 24-30, 2022, when they lost four consecutive games.

Some takeaways:

SAMSONOV REBOUNDS

The Leafs’ desire is to have two goaltenders that they can put in net on any given night and know what they’re going to get — a solid performance that makes it difficult for opponents to score.

They’ve been getting that in Joseph Woll. In Samsonov, not so much, a bit of alarming development considering the season that Samsonov enjoyed in 2022-23. 

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There have been issues with Samsonov’s technique in the early going. At times, he has appeared to be a newcomer to the crease, sliding around without much direction. After a few days of practice and chance to clear his head, there was little of that in Boston. Samsonov was positionally sound.

A save on Pavel Zacha early in the second, with the Bruins up 2-0, was large. Samsonov coolly turned aside a Zacha shot after a breakdown in defensive zone coverage, and not long after, Marner beat Swayman.

Five saves by Samsonov in overtime, which included a kill of a Nylander minor, were crucial.

Samsonov, who made 38 saves, looked more like he did last season when he was among the top netminders in the National Hockey League.

THE RESPONSE

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The Leafs looked to be done when the Bruins scored late in the first period and before the ice was dry to start the second.

Zacha opened the scoring at 18:51 when John Klingberg couldn’t decide which way to turn, and Brandon Carlo found Zacha in front for an easy tap-in.

DeBrusk scored at 1:36 of the second when he was untouched and able to pop a Marchand rebound past Samsonov.

Still, the Leafs had a better start on Thursday than they did in the 4-1 loss against the Kings. They played with determination, though a simple pulse would have represented an improvement over how they performed versus the Kings.

Crucially, the two Bruins goals and the Liljegren injury didn’t throw the Leafs for a loop. 

The Samsonov save on Zacha got Toronto going, and Marner got his third of the season at 6:31 of the second when his low shot fooled Swayman. Just 63 seconds later, it was Matthews with his eighth goal, coming when he beat Swayman high to tie the game 2-2.

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There was no such gumption 48 hours earlier against the Kings. That it came against the Bruins, one of the top teams in the NHL, had to be encouraging for Keefe and his coaching staff.

A MARCHAND MATTER

When the Leafs didn’t throw down their sticks and go after Marchand following the Bruins captain’s egregious trip on Liljegren, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone. 

Sure, Ryan Reaves yelled a few things at Marchand from the bench following the incident toward the end of the first period, but otherwise the Leafs carried on as usual. That’s just the way this team is, and the presence of Reaves, who will fight every so often and hit someone every so often, won’t change the way Toronto generally goes about doing things.

Referee Wes McCauley, who has enjoyed playing the showman role when announcing penalties in the past, watched from a few feet away as Marchand tripped Liljegren into the end boards and didn’t make a call. A penalty seemed obvious to everyone but McCauley. 

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But leaving Marchand alone? No big shock there. The Leafs haven’t made a habit in the past of taking matters like that into their own hands. Not even an incident involving their Atlantic Division rivals could change that.

SAMSONOV REBOUNDS

The Leafs’ desire is to have two goaltenders that they can put in net on any given night and know what they’re going to get — a solid performance that makes it difficult for opponents to score.

They’ve been getting that in Joseph Woll. In Samsonov, not so much, a bit of alarming development considering the season that Samsonov enjoyed in 2022-23. 

Samsonov looked a little better in an overtime loss in Nashville last Saturday, and took another step on Thursday night. 

There have been issues with Samsonov’s technique in the early going. At times, he has appeared to be a newcomer to the crease, sliding around without much direction. After a few days of practice and chance to clear his head, there was little of that in Boston. Samsonov was positionally sound.

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A save on Pavel Zacha early in the second, with the Bruins up 2-0, was large. Samsonov coolly turned aside a Zacha shot after a breakdown in defensive zone coverage, and not long after, Marner beat Swayman to get the Leafs on the board.

Five saves by Samsonov in overtime, which included a successful kill of a Nylander minor, were crucial.

On the whole, Samsonov, who made 38 saves, looked more like he did last season when he was among the top netminders in the National Hockey League.

Matthew Knies of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against Trent Frederic
Matthew Knies of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against Trent Frederic of the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on November 02, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Maddie Meyer /Getty Images

THE RESPONSE

The Leafs looked to be done when the Bruins scored late in the first period and before the ice was dry to start the second.

Zacha opened the scoring at 18:51 of the first when John Klingberg couldn’t decide which way to turn, and Brandon Carlo found Zacha in front for an easy tap-in.

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DeBrusk got his first of the season at 1:36 when he was untouched and able to pop a Marchand rebound past Samsonov.

The Leafs had a better start on Thursday than they did in the 4-1 loss against the Kings. They played with determination, though a simple pulse would have represented an improvement over how they performed versus the Kings.

Crucially, the two Bruins goals and the Liljegren injury didn’t throw the Leafs for a loop. 

The Samsonov save on Zacha got Toronto going, and Marner, who knows he needs to shoot more, got his third of the season at 6:31 of the second when his low shot fooled Swayman. Just 63 seconds later, it was Matthews with his eighth goal, coming when his catch and release beat Swayman high to tie the game 2-2.

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There was no such gumption 48 hours earlier against the Kings. That it came against the Bruins, one of the top teams in the NHL, had to be encouraging for Keefe and his coaching staff.

A MARCHAND MATTER

That the Leafs didn’t throw down their sticks and go after Marchand following the Bruins captain’s egregious trip on Liljegren shouldn’t have surprised anyone. 

Sure, Ryan Reaves yelled a few things at Marchand from the bench following the incident toward the end of the first period, but otherwise the Leafs carried on as usual. That’s just the way this team is, and the presence of Reaves, who will fight every so often and hit someone every so often, won’t change the way the Leafs generally go about doing things.

Worse about the whole situation was that referee Wes McCauley, who has enjoyed playing the showman role when announcing penalties in the past, watched from a few feet away as Marchand tripped Liljegren into the end boards and didn’t make a call. A penalty seemed obvious to everyone but McCauley. 

But leaving Marchand alone? No big shock there. The Leafs haven’t made a habit in the past of taking matters like that into their own hands. Not even an incident involving their Atlantic Division rivals could change that.

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