TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs are close to making playoff history.
Captain Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel scored third-period goals and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the Boston Bruins 2-1 Sunday to send their playoff series back to Boston for Game 7.
Game 7 is Monday night in Boston. The winner will play the winner of the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals series. That series is also tied 3-3 with Game 7 on Monday night.
The Maple Leafs, making their return to the postseason for the first time since 2004, became the 48th team in Stanley Cup history to rally from a 3-1 deficit to force Game 7.
The only time Toronto has come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series was the 1942 Stanley Cup finals against the Detroit Red Wings when the Leafs trailed 3-0 before reeling off four straight wins.
Sunday’s win also snapped a 54-year stretch of home playoff failure against the Bruins.
Toronto’s previous home playoff win against Boston was March 31, 1959, when the Leafs won 3-2 in overtime. Nine straight postseason home losses followed in the decades since.
Milan Lucic scored for Boston with 26 seconds left in the third.
Boston coach Claude Julien was critical of his team’s puck management and decision-making.
“We’ve been a Jekyll-and-Hyde hockey team all year and that’s what you’re seeing right now,” he said. “I think it’s important to us to bring the good Bruins team to the table for Game 7.”
A loss on Monday and Boston, Stanley Cup winners in 2011, will exit in the seventh game of the first round for the second year in a row.
“We know we’re going to go into a hostile building (Monday) night in Boston,” Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. “We know the passion in their market and their fans. We’ve been there already, we know what we’re heading to and we just have to make sure that we play the game to a higher level than we did tonight. Because we know they will.”
As if the Bruins did not have enough problems in Toronto, their plane broke down.
“Late during tonight’s game we were made aware that there was a malfunction with our airplane,” Boston GM Peter Chiarelli said in a statement. “As a result we are staying in Toronto on Sunday night and the team will travel to Boston on Monday morning.”
The Maple Leafs have momentum after two consecutive wins.
“They’re a good team,” Boston forward Patrice Bergeron said. “We never said it was going to be an easy series. Here we are now and it’s all about one game. Whatever happened in the first six games doesn’t matter. It’s all about showing up (Monday).”
James Reimer was again steady in the Toronto net, making 29 saves to earn the win. Tuukka Rask finished with 24 stops in the Boston goal.
“If you only score one goal, a lot of times you end up on the wrong side, Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “Tonight, we just didn’t score enough to win.”
“Being frustrated right now isn’t going to help,” Bergeron said. “It’s about being determined to find ways to put it in. It’s all about (Monday) now.”
For Phaneuf, scoring a goal was a bit of redemption after being involved in the play that led to the Bruins’ overtime winner in Game 4.
Phaneuf’s goal at 1:48 of the third period came after Nazem Kadri ripped a wrist shot that was tipped in by Phaneuf, who had made his way to the front of the goal after continuing his rush.
Boston had lost the puck in the Toronto end on an attempt at a pass by David Krejci.
Kessel then added to the lead at 8:59, picking up the puck after James van Riemsdyk dealt with two Bruins in front of goal and backhanded it past Tuukka Rask. Kadri beat Patrice Bergeron on the faceoff to start the play.
“When you play as many minutes and you’re the focus of your hockey club, when a lot of things don’t go the way they’re supposed to go, being the captain, that C becomes pretty heavy,” Carlyle said of Phaneuf, whose decision to pinch in and hit Nathan Horton resulted in an odd-man rush that led to the OT goal in Game 4.
“And when you make a mistake, which he did, your teammates want to rally around you and you want to try and correct that as quickly as possible.”
Said Phaneuf: “I felt that I owed it to the guys and luckily I was able to tip that (shot). It definitely felt good.”
After poor outings, Kadri was better on Sunday.
“Much more noticeable,” Carlyle said. “Much more movement as far as moving off the puck. He skated with the puck and he skated when he didn’t have the puck … When he skates and he can make room, he can create plays and that’s what you saw tonight. And that’s been absent but he delivered in a big way tonight.”
Van Riemsdyk was also effective, earning assists on both goals.
After combining for 170 shots in the past two games, the teams played defensively in what started as a much tighter game, but opened up later on.
The tight game made for a tense atmosphere inside where 19,591 fans, wielding giveaway blue or white towels.
Outside, another amped-up crowd packed Maple Leafs Square outside the Air Canada Centre to watch the game on a big screen, despite chilly temperatures at game time.
First-line Leafs center Tyler Bozak skated during warm-ups but was scratched.
Bozak, who scored short-handed in Game 5, had missed the final two games of the regular season with what was believed to be a shoulder injury.
Joe Colborne, making his playoff debut, came in for Bozak.
Boston defenseman Andrew Ference did not make the trip to Toronto for undisclosed reasons. But Wade Redden returned to the lineup after missing Game 5.
That prompted Julien to change his defensive pairings, as he did when Ference was suspended for Game 2. Captain Zdeno Chara played with Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg with Adam McQuaid, and Redden with rookie Dougie Hamilton.
Boston dominated most of the first period, skating hard and pushing the pace.
Toronto had to kill off an early penalty. Carlyle juggled his forward lines.
The Bruins outshot Toronto 8-7 in a tight first period. Without Bozak, the Leafs won just six of 17 faceoffs in the period. Toronto outhit Boston 19-17.
Boston continued to bottle up the Leafs in their own end for stretches of the second, with Boychuk hitting the post with a shot from the blue line.
A diving Reimer made a stop on Patrice Bergeron six minutes in, going across the crease on his stomach as Boychuk came from behind the net and tried to stuff the puck in.
Reimer, who came into the game leading all playoff goalies in shots against (207) and saves (192), stopped Bergeron again seconds later.
After the Game 5 loss, Julien called for more production from the line of Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin, who had 59 shots but just one goal in the first five games.
The trio combined for one shot in the first period but were more active as the game wore on.
The teams had 10 shots apiece in the second period. Toronto led the hit count 42-33 with Leafs defenseman Ryan O’Byrne and forward Leo Komarov leading the way with six apiece.
The final hit count was 58-50 in favor of Toronto.