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Leafs draw closer to Bruins with huge 4-2 win

Canadian Press logoCanadian Press 2017-03-21 Jonas Siegel

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TORONTO - Tyler Bozak scored the go-ahead power-play goal with less than two minutes left in regulation as the Toronto Maple Leafs notched a huge 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins Monday night.

The win pulled the Leafs (33-23-15, 81 points) to within one point of the Bruins (38-28-6, 82 points) for third spot in the Atlantic division. Toronto, currently holding the final wild-card position in the Eastern Conference, also holds a game in hand.

Morgan Rielly, William Nylander and Nazem Kadri also scored for the Leafs, who swept the season series with Boston (4-0-0). Frederik Andersen was sharp with 31 saves, James van Riemsdyk notching two assists.

David Backes opened scoring for the Bruins with Dominic Moore adding one with 10 seconds to play. Tuukka Rask yielding two goals on 27 shots.

A malfunctioning clock briefly delayed the start of the game and wasn't used until the start of the third period. Game time was announced at stoppages by the public address announcer and displayed in a corner of the videoboard — issues that were most apparent during power plays with no time counting down penalties.

The opening 20 minutes were choppy as a result of the malfunctions but also entertaining. The two teams traded chances with playoff positioning on the line. Winning the first three meetings this season, Toronto entered the night three points back of third-place Boston with a game in hand.

It was the Bruins who opened the scoring though just over seven minutes in.

Emerging Hart trophy candidate Brad Marchand set up Backes for the goal, one he fired as two Leafs defenders — Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev — converged without effect. Marchand picked up his 80th point of the year on the play, duking it out with Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Patrick Kane, among others, for MVP as well as the Art Ross trophy for the league's top scorer.

Marchand was named first star for last week by the NHL after totalling five goals and nine points in three games. Backes, meanwhile, was questionable to even play after missing the morning skate with an illness.

The Leafs had only one shot on goal through the first 10 minutes — though problems with the NHL's real-time stats system were also an apparent issue.

There was a playoff-like vibe to the evening with intensity and scrappy play to match.

Connor Carrick, who was returning from an 11-game absence (suspected shoulder injury), traded feisty blows at one point with David Pastrnak. The Bruins were perturbed a short while later when Nikita Soshnikov hit Patrice Bergeron from behind in the corner of the Boston zone.

Bergeron leaped up after the hit and grabbed Soshnikov with both players drawing minor penalties.

The Leafs gained steam as the period went on.

After nearly scoring himself on a feed from van Riemsdyk, Mitch Marner dished to Rielly for the game-tying goal with less than six minutes remaining in the first. Rielly's initial attempt was stopped by Rask, but the defender's momentum carried him and the puck (off his leg) into the goal.

It was the sixth marker of the year for Rielly and third in the last five games.

Toronto had a two-man advantage for more than a minute late in the first, but failed to score. Brian Boyle's tip of a point shot was stopped as was Matthews shot on a drop feed from Kadri.

Marchand's pesky ways were apparent early in the second, the 28-year-old goading Zaitsev into a cross-checking penalty. The Russian defenceman, noticeably frustrated, first hacked Marchand's leg after the whistle and then shoved into the sideboards.

A relatively even first 40 minutes saw Toronto outshooting Boston 21-20.

The Leafs nearly went ahead in the opening minutes of the third — seconds on the clock successfully ticking down on the scoreboard — Zach Hyman's shot from in tight stopped by Rask with Matthews unable to get his stick on a rebound. A few minutes later Marner spun around and dished a one-time feed to van Riemsdyk, who whistled a shot wide.

Boston proceeded to nearly score themselves when Andersen bobbled a shot off the rush, the Bruins circling for the rebound.

The 27-year-old goaltender entered the night with a .940 save percentage in March.

Angered himself earlier in the game from the Soshnikov hit, Bergeron drew the ire of the Leafs when he bumped Andersen — with help from a shove from Komarov. Komarov and Bergeron traded chirps and shoves between whistles.

The Leafs got a power play with less than three minutes to go in the third when Dominic Moore was whistled for interfering with Soshnikov. A day after his 31st birthday, Bozak beat Rask from the slot for the go-ahead goal and eventual game-winner — his 17th of the year.

Nylander extended his point streak to eight games by scoring his 19th of the season into an empty net.

Also See: Top images from the NHL season

The Ducks' Nate Thompson (center) Brandon Montour (right) and Chris Wagner (left) celebrate a goal by Thompson as the Kings' Alec Martinez skates away during the third period on April 9 in Anaheim, Calif. The Ducks won 4-3 in overtime. 2016-17 NHL Season

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