We had a total of just two playoff games in the National Hockey League on Sunday, but each of the contests were very exciting, and the television executives are likely smiling about the results. The Boston Bruins won on the road against the Toronto Maple Leafs to set up a decisive Game 7 on Tuesday night in Beantown. The San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights had even more drama, as they played well into the night before the game was decided in double-overtime. They too will play a Game 7 back in the Bay Area on Tuesday night. Let's get started!
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Boston Bruins 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 2
The worst nightmare of the Toronto Maple Leafs fans came true on Sunday afternoon. After grabbing a little bit of confidence with a road victory in Game 5 on Friday, the Leafs fans are back to wringing their hands after a disappointing loss at home in a closeout game. Things started well enough for the home side, as Morgan Rielly notched his first of the playoffs on assists from William Nylander and Patrick Marleau. Midway through the first period the Leafs held a 1-0 lead, but it didn't last long. Tyler Ennis was whistled for a holding penalty 43 seconds after Rielly's goal, and Brad Marchand cashed in with the power-play marker to square things 1-1. Later in the first period it was a tripping call on Travis Dermott, and the B's were able to cash in on the man advantage yet again. This time Torey Krug did the honors with his first of the playoffs, as David Pastrnak and Marchand picked up assists. The B's took a 2-1 lead to the room after 20 minutes, as the home crowd started to grow impatient.
Public enemy No. 1 in Toronto these days, Jake DeBrusk, was able to make his mark in the second period with an even-strength goals, helped out by David Krejci and Pastrnak. It was DeBrusk's first goal of the series, and the faithful of the blue and white showered him with boos. It was his controversial knee-to-knee hit on Nazem Kadri in Game 2 which Leafs fans were unhappy about, and they never will forget. There was a brief glimmer of hope as the teams emerged in the third period, as Auston Matthews sliced the lead to 3-2, as he continues to show up and give him team big goals after a disappearing act in last season's playoffs. However, Marchand netted an empty-net goal at 18:06 of the third period to seal it, forcing a Game 7 back in Boston on Tuesday.
As you would expect, this was a super physical game, too. DeBrusk and Sean Kuraly were able to post seven hits apiece to lead their team, while Krug led the way with nine shots. Krejci also surprised with four blocked shots and a hit, showing a willingness to throw around his body. In addition, Bergeron's 17-for-23 (73.9 percent) night in the faceoff circle was huge for the visitors, too. The Leafs didn't bring nearly the same kind of physical dominance, as no one had more than five hits, and it was Kasperi Kapanen leading in that category. Jake Gardiner posted four blocked shots, and Ron Hainsey had three. Rielly celebrated with the goal, but it was also learned later that he is not among the three finalists for the Norris Trophy. Perhaps that will give him a little extra chip on his shoulder heading into Game 7, not that he should need any extra motivation.
Frederik Andersen allowed three goals on 40 shots, and two of the three goals he allowed were on the power play, so he didn't play poorly at all. In fact, he might have been the best player on the ice. Tuukka Rask wasn't tested nearly as much, allowing two goals on just 24 shots, but he made the saves he needed to make down the stretch, as the team came up empty with an extra attacker late in the game. Rask is 2-0 in Game 7s all-time against the Leafs, while Andersen is winless in three Game 7s in his postseason career.
San Jose Sharks 2, Vegas Golden Knights 1 (2OT)
Oh, you thought Toronto-Boston was a great game? The Sharks and Golden Knights said, "Hey, hold my beer." They put on an amazing show at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday night in Vegas, forcing a decisive Game 7 back in the Bay Area on Tuesday night.
The Sharks are attempting to rally back from a 3-1 series deficit, and they're at least even now after a marathon game. The much maligned Martin Jones won at home in Game 5, and he willed his team to a victory with a career-high 58 saves, turning aside 88 of the 91 shots he faced over the past two outings. As much as he was wearing goat horns, and not G.O.A.T. in a good way, he has really redeemed himself in the past two games.
Logan Couture silenced the crowd with just nine seconds remaining in the first period when he took a pass from Timo Meier for the ice breaker. The good feelings didn't last long for the Sharks, however, as Jonathan Marchessault was able to strike for his third goal of the series midway through the second, as Shea Theodore and William Karlsson provided the helpers. Marchessault also led the team with eight shots on goal while finishing with a plus-1 rating, a blocked shot, a minor penalty and nine hits. The physicality was a bit of a surprise, and his hit total was bested only by Cody Eakin, who registered 10 hits. Ryan Reaves also made his presence felt with nine hits, too, as did Colin Miller. The latter also stepped up with four blocked shots, while Jon Merrill and Theodore picked up five blocked shots apiece.
Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't tested nearly as much at his end of the ice, allowing two goals on 29 total shots in over 91 minutes of action. When he needed to step up most, Fleury was beaten. On a shorthanded breakaway, Tomas Hertl struck for the game-winning tally, and NHL history, too. He became the first player in NHL history to score a shorty in a postseason battle requiring multiple overtimes. He is one of just nine players to ever recorded a shorthanded winner in overtime in the playoffs, too.
Fleury will look to rebound Tuesday, and he has history on his side. He has won the past two Game 7 starts he has made, topping the Detroit Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup in 2009, and he topped the Washington Capitals in 2017. He allowed just one goal each in those two decisive Game 7 victories.