Toronto Maple Leafs pushed to the brink after Bruins win Game 4

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19: Brad Marchand
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19: Brad Marchand /

Two errors cost the Toronto Maple Leafs in what could be considered their best performance of the playoffs. Now, they are down 3-1 in the series with the Boston Bruins.

When the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped the first two games of their first-round series against Boston, it not only left the team searching for answers but also with no room for error.

The Leafs gave themselves and their fans hope with a Game 3 victory on home ice, as well as the chance to tie the series on Thursday night. Their chances appeared to increase with the news Patrice Bergeron would sit out with an upper-body injury. But it was the visitors that found the scoreboard first.

Torey Krug opened the scoring just 28 seconds into the contest, stunning the Toronto faithful, some of whom hadn’t even taken their seats yet.

However, the Leafs had an answer in the form of new offensive force Tomas Plekanec. The centre received a pass from a sprawling Mitch Marner and buried the puck past a moving Tuukka Rask just minutes after the Boston marker.

Unfortunately for Toronto, that would be one of the only quality chances the stingy Bruins defence would allow for the rest of the game.

The 41-year-old Zdeno Chara logged 26:43 for the Boston, with most of those minutes coming against the Leafs’ top line of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Zack Hyman. Chara and partner Charlie McAvoy held the line to just seven total shots.

For the majority of the first two periods, Toronto carried the play, with several long stints in the Bruins’ zone. The Leafs defenders were aggressive with pinches to keep the puck in the offensive zone throughout the game.

That changed in the second, when Jake Gardiner made an ill-advised pinch that ended up leading to a two-on-one for David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. You can probably guess how that ended for the Leafs.

The Bruins exposed the Leafs’ gameplan again five minutes into the third. Travis Dermott turned the puck over, leading to a Jake DeBrusk goal to give Boston their insurance goal.

Toronto did battle to try and get back within striking distance. But as was the case during the regular season, the Bruins were automatic on defence with the lead.

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When all was said and done, Boston blocked 27 shots, and the ones that did make it through were eaten up by Rask, who finished with 30 saves.

With their backs against the wall, the Leafs will need to win three straight games in order to see the second round. Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov will both be available to play Game 5 in Boston.

The former will be returning from his three-game suspension, while the latter is coming back from an injury suffered in Game 2.

Kadri will instantly be inserted into the lineup, forcing Plekanec back down to the fourth line. As for Komarov, it is unclear whether or not he will factor into the lineup on Saturday night.

While Mike Babcock loves the Finnish winger, the strong play of both Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson could leave the Leafs’ bench boss with no choice but to keep the pair in to try and maximize offence.

Next: The pressure of playoff hockey

Babcock’s plans will be revealed in the coming days. For now, the Toronto Maple Leafs will lick their wounds and get ready to steal a game in a building that has done them no favours so far in the postseason.