Toronto Maple Leafs force seventh game with emotional victory

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Tomas Plekanec
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Tomas Plekanec /

In one of the darkest days in the history of the Toronto, the Toronto Maple Leafs gave the city something to cheer about with a 3-1 victory over the Boston Bruins.

The atmosphere inside the Air Canada Centre on Monday night was unlike that of a regular crowd for a Toronto Maple Leafs game. Not because of the stakes of the hockey game. This time, it was for a much darker reason.

News began to break at around 1:30 p.m. Monday that a suspect had hit several bystanders on a sidewalk just north of downtown Toronto. As more information emerged throughout the day, details became increasingly grim.

In the end, 10 people were pronounced dead and 15 others injured as a result of the tragedy. Immediately after learning of the full extent of the incident, both the Maple Leafs and Bruins released statements via Twitter.

As a precaution, increased security was added at the Air Canada Centre and Maple Leafs Square to ensure fan safety.

Before the game, Leafs defenceman Ron Hainsey spoke to Sportsnet‘s Kyle Bukauskas, where he expressed his and his teammate’s condolences. Patrice Bergeron also followed with the same sentiment minutes later.

Finally, Leafs singer Martina Ortiz-Luis stopped singing in order to let the fans inside the ACC carry the Canadian national anthem home.

It’s hard to look past an event like this. In the case of sports, it’s a great getaway from any issues in everyday life, if only for a few hours. In this case, the fans watching the game were treated to another great showdown between Boston and Toronto.

The seal wouldn’t be broken in the game until the second period, when Jake Debrusk would get the Bruins on the board with a quick wrister off a face-off.

That would be the last puck that would find its way past Frederik Andersen on the night. The Leafs starter would make 32 stops in the game, including several key saves on the Bruins’ top scorers.

It wasn’t all a one-man show, however. William Nylander came out of his offensive hiatus in the series and potted a rebound just 35 seconds after Debrusk’s marker, silencing his detractors in the process.

Mitch Marner would put the Buds ahead later in the third to help them carry a one-goal lead into the final frame. While the push from the Bruins came in the third, the Leafs bent but didn’t break.

Tomas Plekanec would seal the deal in the final seconds with an empty-netter.

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Just a few short days ago, it seemed like the Leafs were down and out of the NHL playoffs. After losing Game 4 at home, it was hard to see the Leafs pulling out two wins to force Game 7, especially in Boston, where they had been shelled in the previous two games.

This Leafs team showed a lot to their fanbase over the past three days. They’ve earned a chance to play their way into the second round. Now, they have to perform in the ultimate pressure-test: Game 7.

Do your best to stay as calm as possible before then. It’s going to be a crazy affair with a fair share of drama.

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That game will take place on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The winner will move on to Tampa Bay for another grueling series against the East-best Lightning.