Sometimes, you play your worst and win anyway.
The Boston Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 Thursday night in a weird Game 4 they probably didn't deserve. But quick-strike goals by Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk helped erase a brutal second period for the B's, who now own a commanding 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series. Game 5 will be Saturday night in Boston.
The bad news for Boston started shortly before puck drop when top center Patrice Bergeron was unexpectedly scratched from the lineup with an upper-body injury. With their best player listed as day-to-day, Riley Nash was promoted from the third line as a replacement.
Nash promptly made an impact. The Bruins jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 28 seconds into the first period when Torey Krug beat Frederik Andersen from the left circle in the game's opening sequence. Nash provided a screen that left Andersen with little chance to make a save.
That's about all that went Boston's way for much of the game. Bruins-killer Tomas Plekanec evened the score eight minutes later, ripping a one-timer in the slot past Tuukka Rask's blocker. The sequence began when Nash lost a board battle with Toronto forward Mitch Marner deep in the Boston zone. Marner fed Plekanec from his knees for the equalizer.
The Maple Leafs took that momentum and nearly ran away with the game.
In the second period, the Bruins were easily submitting their worst hockey of the playoffs. Sloppy with the puck and chasing the play, the B's looked overmatched. Toronto buzzed the Boston end-all period but couldn't solve Rask, who finished the game with 31 saves.
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Then, out of nowhere, came Marchand's game winner.
With just over three minutes remaining in the second, David Pastrnak challenged a pinching Leafs defenseman inside the Bruins' blueline, stealing possession along the right-wing wall and darting off for an odd-man rush. Pastrnak found Marchand in the middle for a one-time strike. It was the Czech star's second assist of the game and his league-leading 11th point of the playoffs.
Insurance came on a very similar play just 4:17 into the third period, when another ill-advised pinch by the Leafs allowed David Krejci to spring for a two-on-one. Krejci dished to DeBrusk in the slot, and DeBrusk patiently waited out Andersen before burying the puck.
With timely goaltending by Rask and two transition strikes, the Bruins turned an ugly game upside-down and escaped from Toronto with the first road victory of the series. They can now end the Maple Leafs' season Saturday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m. on NBC10 Boston.