Bruins look for line improvement against Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a chance to take a commanding lead in their first-round playoff series when they host the Boston Bruins Wednesday night.

The Maple Leafs grabbed a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series on Monday with a 3-2 victory over the visiting Bruins.

"I thought it was a higher-level game (Monday) than the other games," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "It was quicker, both teams were better. In the other two games I think one team was better each night."

But for the Bruins to keep the Maple Leafs from taking the big series lead, they are going to need to return to the forechecking and puck control in the Maple Leafs' zone that worked their win in this series.

"Very effective for us in Game 2," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "Putting pucks behind the goal line and forcing (Toronto) to go 200 feet. I don't think we got burned by the stretch pass, per se, but we didn't establish enough forecheck to create second chances, get them fatigued in their zone, get them tired kicking pucks out. It was decent at times but not consistent enough for what I feel is a formula for us to have the most success."

"That's the biggest key to this series, the neutral zone, and it seemed they were coming with more speed (Monday)," Bruins left winger Jake DeBrusk said. "I thought we brought the speed in Game 2, and they brought the speed in (Games) 1 and 3 -- and those are the results."

The Maple Leafs' top line of John Tavares, Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman have controlled the Bruins first line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. The Bruins will need improved play from that line.

"They've having a tougher time getting to the net and as a result I think they're trying real hard one-on-one to get there. I think they've got to use each other a little better. And get an old-fashioned goal, when there's a center lane, drive the puck to the net, get a second chance," Cassidy said. "They're pretty determined guys. They'll find their way."

Bergeron agreed the way Boston will stay in the series is to put the puck on net to create chances instead of staying on the perimeter.

"You know, that's where you're going to score your goals, right?" Bergeron said. "It's about keeping the puck in there and once you do have possession, it's about getting it to the net a little bit more. We can't stay on the outside. We have to find to find a way to create those chances."

Babcock gave credit to his group.

"Obviously, the priority against them is to play real good players, that's what we're doing as a five-man unit and you do everything you can to at least go 50 percent in the faceoff circle so they don't have the puck all the time," Babcock said. "We have good players too and John (Tavares) here now, we've got a veteran guy, he's been around a while and he's gotten better and better and better defensively this year and it shows."

The difference in Game 3 proved to be a pair of second-period power-play goals by Auston Matthews and Andreas Johnsson that gave Toronto a 3-1 lead. Charlie Coyle responded with a power-play goal before the second period ended.

It was the first goal of the series for Matthews, who also had an assist on Monday.

Although there were no goals in the first period, the Maple Leafs center said their fast start to the game was significant.

"Yeah that was big for us," Matthews said. "I think we just used our speed and got in their end and we just tried to play below their dots and did a good job tracking back and supporting our D and breaking out the puck clean. I thought that first seven, eight minutes was really strong for us."

The series returns to Boston for Game 5 on Friday.

--Field Level Media