The Boston Bruins needed this one. But so did the team chasing them down. In the end, it was the pursuer who had the final word as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 4-2 in Toronto last night, a win that pulls the Leafs within just one point of the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic division, with a game in hand on Boston.
This was a contest dominated for the most part by goaltenders at both ends of the ice, Tuukka Rask making spectacular saves for Boston, only to be equaled by Frederik Andersen in the Leaf's net. The game was tied at one apiece late into the third period on goals by David Backes for Boston and Morgan Rielly for Toronto, when Boston's Dominic Moore got called for an interference penalty with less than three minutes to go, and the Leafs went in front for good on the ensuing power play on a goal by Tyler Bozak.
The Bruins were forced to pull Rask after that and the Leafs scored two empty net goals to put it away. Moore scored a meaningless goal with just ten seconds left to make it a 4-2 final. Small solace for the Bruins forward who was none too pleased with the interference call in the waning minutes that gave the Leafs a power play.
The Bruins have no time to feel sorry for themselves, though. They have to get right back onto the ice tonight, back home to face the Ottawa Senators in what you have to call a must-win or at least a must-get-one-point for Boston. The Bruins are four points behind Ottawa for second place in the division and could pull within a game with a regulation win, but it's more about staying in front of upstarts like the Leafs, Islanders, and Tampa Bay Lightning, all of whom are within striking distance of catching and passing Boston, which would leave the Bruins outside the playoff bubble for a third consecutive season. It's been this way the past two years, but essentially, all these games in the last couple of weeks of the season amount to playoff games just to make the playoffs.
The Boston basketball franchise fared better than the hockey squad, thanks mostly to the return of their leading scorer Isaiah Thomas. Thomas had been resting a bruised knee the last couple of games, but was back last night scoring 25 points to lead Boston over the Washington Wizards 110-102 in Boston. Avery Bradley, who's been out most of this season due to injury, is back and showing no ill effects since returning. He scored 20 last night while pulling down 9 rebounds and playing his special brand of bulldog defense to frustrate a Washington team that has no love lost in relation to Boston. The teams have had some physical, ugly games against each other this season, with lots of extra curricular activity after the whistle and words that can't be repeated in polite company. That continued last night when Boston's Terry Rozier and Washington's Brandon Jennings got into a shoving match underneath the basket, both players earning technical fouls for their trouble.
The win for the Celtics gives them the most recent bragging rights and opens a two and a half game lead over the Wizards for second place in the eastern conference. The Celts have their sights on first place, currently held by King Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Celtics are just two games back.
In the World Baseball Classic, Puerto Rico has punched its ticket to the final, beating the Netherlands 4-3 last night in 11 innings, thanks in part to the quirky extra innings rule the WBC employs. Once into the 11th, each team is allowed a runner on first and second to begin the inning. Major League Baseball, please don't get any ideas. Holland failed to score in their half, and Puerto Rico won it in their half of the 11th when they executed a sacrifice bunt followed by an Eddie Rosario sacrifice fly that scored Carlos Correa with the winning run. Puerto Rico will play for the championship against either the U.S. or Japan, who play later tonight at 9 in the other semi-final.