Maple Leafs fall to Bruins in last game before All-Star break

The Toronto Maple Leafs feel like they can keep up with the NHL-leading Boston Bruins. You just have to do it for three consecutive periods.

Pavel Zacha scored twice in the third game as Boston edged the Maple Leafs 5-2 in Toronto on Wednesday night. After a scoreless first half, Toronto trailed 2-1 at the second break before the Bruins opened the game.

“I thought we were with them almost the entire time,” said Leafs forward Mitch Marner, who scored a power-play goal in the second half. “Even in the third, I don’t know if I would call it cheating but we fought hard and gave up a couple of odd chances and that cost us.”

Calle Jarnkrok had a goal in the third goal to keep Toronto (31-13-8) in the game. Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said that while Boston is 13 points ahead of his team going into the All-Star break, he feels the Atlantic Division rivals are in a neck-and-neck -Match are close.

“The margins are slim,” said Keefe, who noted the Bruins’ goal difference is 41 goals better than the second-best team in the league. “It’s a significant gap between them and the rest of the league if you look at the season in its entirety up to this point.

“But when you’re in the game, you’re right there. That’s what’s hard.”

CLOCK | Zacha’s 2-goal night helps the Bruins beat the Maple Leafs in Toronto:

Two goals from Bruins Zacha lead Boston to victory over Leafs

Two third-half goals from Boston’s Pavel Zacha gave the Bruins a 5-2 win over Toronto on Wednesday night.

Ilya Samsonov stopped 24 shots in his eighth straight game for Toronto. He said he’s been a little ill lately, but Keefe is confident the All-Star break would do Samsonov well.

“It’s February in Ontario,” Keefe said. “Everyone is fighting something.”

Derek Forbort and Brandon Carlo both scored in the second round as Boston (39-7-5) enjoyed a three-game winning streak. AJ Greer’s goal early in the third goal was the win.

Goalkeeper Linus Ullmark made 33 saves for the victory in the net.

Of the four Bruins goalscorers, only Zacha has double figures this season, with his two lifting him to 11 on Wednesday. Carlo said it’s important that Boston can count on their deep players on offense as well.

“We all want to contribute to that aspect if we can,” said Carlo, who has scored twice this season. “It’s great when you get the result of that. I think it gives the other guys a boost too.

“We want to be a great support system for the guys who score goals all the time and occasionally do our part.”

After a scoreless first half, Forbort scored a goal in the second half, 6:57, shorthanded.

Marner replied 2:28 later. After a long leading pass from Samsonov off the ties, Marner ran through the faceoff circle and shot past Ullmark for a 1-1 equalizer.

Carlo restored Boston’s one-goal lead just over three minutes later by repelling a Samsonov pass from a wide angle.

Early in the third, Toronto center David Kampf had his arm around a hard attacking Greer and released his own stick to avoid a penalty. Greer used the opening and shot past Samsonov to make it 3-1.

“We have to be dialed in to the smallest detail and it just takes a lot of execution,” said Leafs captain John Tavares.

Jarnkrok struck in a rebound from Ullmark’s pads after a shot deflected into the slot from Mark Giordano at 8:38.

Jarnkrok’s goal was still being announced over the public address system when Zacha let go of his defender and wired a shot from the point past Samsonov to restore Boston’s two-goal lead.

3:11 later Zacha put down his second of the night. Just yards from Samsonov’s goal area, he fell to one knee as David Krejci found a one-way goal.

“I think that line is very dynamic,” said Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery. “It’s one of the most creative lines in the league.

“[Zacha’s] a bit of a sticky guy who has to do a lot of dirty work, so to speak, drive the middle lane, be the first guy in the forecheck, the first guy in the backcheck.

It was both teams’ last game before the All-Star break.

Toronto won’t play again until February 10, when the Maple Leafs travel to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets.

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