Knies scores in OT, Leafs top Bruins to stay alive

BOSTON – Matthew Knies lived with John Tavares when he first arrived in the NHL.

The rookie forward forged a close bond with the Toronto captain’s family as he adjusted to life as a pro.

The pair reconnected Tuesday to keep their team breathing in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Knies scored at 2:26 of overtime after Tavares took the puck hard to the net as the Maple Leafs topped the Boston Bruins 2-1 to avoid elimination in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series.

“You black out a little bit,” said Knies, who joined Toronto last spring out of U.S. college hockey before getting injured in the second round. “I was just so excited and so happy.

“What brought me more joy was to see the faces of my teammates and how much they wanted to keep playing.”

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Tavares blew past Bruins defenceman Matt Grzelcyk — a healthy scratch the last two games and in the action with Brandon Carlo out injured to start OT — before shovelling a shot on target that popped out front for Knies to bury his second goal of the playoffs.

“He’s been really building this series,” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said of the 21-year-old. “An incredible effort by John Tavares, but fitting because (Knies) has worked really hard. It’s terrific.”

Jake McCabe had the other goal for Toronto. Joseph Woll, who got the start ahead of llya Samsonov, made 27 saves. Game 6 goes Thursday in Toronto. Game 7, if necessary, would be back at TD Garden on Saturday.

“We’re just gonna keep fighting,” Tavares said. “Keep believing, keep trusting each other and keep working to play again.”

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Trent Frederic replied for Boston, which is still in the driver’s seat in the best-of-seven series up 3-2, but will have the memories of last spring’s blown 3-1 lead against the Florida Panthers in the opening round still fresh in their minds.

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“You want to make them be uncomfortable,” Keefe said. “You want to make them have to pack up and head up to Toronto.”

Jeremy Swayman stopped 31 shots for the Bruins

“We weren’t good enough — just simple as that,” Boston head coach Jim Montgomery said. “They took it to us. We weren’t ready to match their desperation.”

The Leafs were minus star centre Auston Matthews after an illness forced him from Toronto’s 3-1 loss in Game 4. The 26-year-old sniper, who led the NHL with 69 goals in the regular season, made a cameo at Tuesday’s optional morning skate, but was unable to suit up.

Max Domi stepped into the No. 1 centre role between Mitch Marner and Tyler Bertuzzi — a line that tilted the ice early and kept up its strong play all night.

“Nice to see the boys get rewarded,” Domi said. “Try to flush that and get ready for the next game.”

Woll made his playoff debut last season in Toronto’s second-round defeat to Florida with Samsonov out injured. He played a clean third period in Saturday’s loss — a result that pushed the Leafs to the brink — after his crease partner was pulled.

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“Happy that the coaches and team have faith in me,” Woll said. “Great win for us. Excited to go back on home ice.”

Toronto, which rallied from 3-1 deficits against Boston in 2013 and 2018 before losing in seven games, opened the scoring at 5:33 of the first period inside a nervous TD Garden.

Domi won a faceoff and Marner fed a puck back to McCabe for him to sift home his first through a screen.

Woll had little to do at the other end until a tough bounce got the Bruins back even. A clearing attempt behind the net hit Boston forward Pat Maroon and bounced in front to Frederic for him to bury his third at 13:54.

The visitors’ perplexing power play — 1-for-14 in the series entering Tuesday — got a chance a minute later, but was unable to create much of anything in a period Toronto still dominated 12-2 on the shot clock.

The Leafs’ under-fire penalty kill did its job early in the second before William Nylander, who missed the first three games with an undisclosed injury, rang a shot off the crossbar.

Toronto came close late in the period, but Boston held the fort before a scrum that included Bruins captain Brad Marchand going after Marner — and led to a Leafs power play that had 1:38 left to start the third.

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But Toronto couldn’t do anything with the fresh sheet of ice in falling to 1-for-17 with the man advantage.

Marchand then had a terrific chance only to scoop his effort wide. The cagey forward and Pontus Holmberg were handed offsetting minors later in the third and Boston’s Charlie Coyle rattled Woll’s right post with the teams playing 4-on-4.

The Leafs goaltender robbed Frederic in tight and Swayman stopped Bertuzzi on a 2-on-1 with Domi late in regulation to force OT, where Knies extended Toronto’s season at least one more game.

“Live to fight another day,” Knies said. “Everyone was just focused on doing their role, doing their job.

“Just excited to go back.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2024.


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