Game 5 takeaways: Leafs avoid elimination with OT win vs. Bruins

Game 5 takeaways: Leafs avoid elimination with OT win vs. Bruins originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON — The Toronto Maple Leafs have new life in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Despite not having their best player and the NHL’s leading goal scorer, Auston Matthews, for Game 5 of their first-round series versus the Boston Bruins, the Leafs showed impressive fight and resilience to earn a 2-1 overtime victory Tuesday at TD Garden and force a Game 6 back in Toronto.

Leafs forward Matthew Knies scored the winning goal just 2:26 into overtime.

The Bruins were in a very similar situation last year, too. They had a 3-1 series lead entering Game 5 at home against the Florida Panthers. They lost Game 5 in overtime, then lost the next two games as their season came to a surprising end. Boston has two more chances to avoid a repeat scenario, starting with Game 6 on Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena.

The Leafs need to end their six-game home playoff losing streak to force a decisive Game 7 on Saturday back in Boston. Before we look ahead to Thursday’s matchup, here are three takeaways from Bruins-Leafs Game 5.

Bruins lucky to be tied after first period

The Bruins had a very rough start to this game. They iced the puck multiple times over the first 10 minutes, including one resulting in a defensive zone faceoff that eventually led to the Leafs opening the scoring.

Mitch Marner got the puck after a faceoff win and fed it to Jake McCabe at the point. His shot beat Jeremy Swayman through traffic to put Toronto on top early.

Faceoffs were a massive issue for the Bruins in the first period. They lost 16 of 20 faceoffs in the frame, including an abysmal 4-of-14 in the defensive zone. The Leafs also had a 30-7 edge in shot attempts, a 12-2 lead in shots and a 9-2 advantage in scoring chances during the period. The ice was tilted pretty heavily in Toronto’s favor.

And yet, the Bruins went into the intermission even at one goal thanks to Trent Frederic. Jesper Boqvist and Pat Maroon did a nice job battling below the goal line and managed to get the puck to Frederic in front of the net, who beat his childhood teammate Joseph Wall to get Boston on the board.

It was the second time in this series that Frederic tied the score at one. He did so in Game 3, too.

Joseph Woll stepped up when Leafs needed it most

The Leafs came into this game with a .871 save percentage as a team in Round 1. Bad goaltending was one of the primary reasons why they entered Game 5 trailing 3-1 in the series.

A change by head coach Sheldon Keefe made a huge difference Tuesday night.

Joseph Woll, who played very well in the third period of Game 4 in relief of Ilya Samsonov, made his first start of the series. He played tremendously, making a couple clutch saves in each period, perhaps none more important than this stop on Trent Frederic with the score tied in the third period.

Woll also made a couple clutch stops early in overtime. He finished with 28 saves on 29 shots (.966 save percentage). There’s no way Woll shouldn’t start Game 6. He’s earned it.

Which goalie starts Game 6 for Bruins?

The Bruins gave Jeremy Swayman a third straight start, which made sense considering he won his previous three games in the series and hadn’t lost to the Leafs since April 29 of 2022.

Swayman was very busy early. He made 11 saves on 12 shots in the opening 20 minutes. The only puck he didn’t stop in the first period came on a shot from point that made its way through traffic in front of the net.

One of Swayman’s best saves came during a second period penalty kill when he had to move quickly from right to left to get in front of a shot by Morgan Rielly.

The University of Maine product made another good stop during a 2-on-1 rush in the third period.

Swayman finished with 31 saves on 33 shots (.939 save percentage).

The Bruins now have a decision to make. Do they stay with Swayman, who played really well again in Game 5 despite the loss, or go back to Ullmark? If Ullmark starts Game 6, it will be his first appearance in 10 days. Would he be rusty? If Swayman starts Game 6, it’ll be his fourth game in nine days.

Swayman gave two stellar performances up in Toronto earlier in the series. He’s been the best goalie statistically in the entire 2024 playoffs. A strong case could be made for riding the hot hand and letting Swayman finish the series, win or lose.

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