Auston Matthews snapped a scoreless tie in the third period as the Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Boston Bruins 2-1 on Friday to take a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
Kasperi Kapanen, with a goal and an assist, also scored for Toronto. Frederik Andersen made 28 saves.
David Krejci replied for Boston. Tuukka Rask stopped 25 shots.
The Leafs will look to wrap up the series at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Game 7, if necessary, would be back at Boston’s TD Garden on Tuesday.
The opener for Toronto came after Matthews took a pass from Jake Muzzin and wired a one-timer beyond Rask for his fourth of the playoffs with 8:27 left in regulation.
The Bruins challenged for goalie interference on Zach Hyman, but the call on the ice stood after video review. The goal was also the fourth in the three games for Matthews, who, with his head down, pounded the dasher board on the bench in celebration when the goal was confirmed.
“I was just praying they were going to call it a good goal. A lot going through you mind there. I haven’t had the best of luck as far as those go,” said Matthews.
“It’s nice to get one back. I’ll take one in the playoffs any day of the week.”
Kapanen, who came in with zero points in the series, helped set up his team’s first, and then scored its second when he finished off a 3-on-2 just 2:12 later.
Boston pulled Rask with under three minutes to go, and Krejci got the home side within one with 44 seconds left, which stood after a review for offside.
But Toronto held firm and will go home with a chance close out the Bruins for the franchise’s first series win since 2004.
Leafs coach Mike Babcock gave Matthews high praise for his performance.
“I thought tonight in particular, this was his best 200-foot game of the playoffs. He was outstanding,” said Babcock, who moved into seventh on the NHL’s all-time list for wins among head coaches with his 90th. “He was involved in so many breakouts. He was there available for the defence.
“I thought he played great. I was impressed with him and proud of him. He should feel good about himself.”
#WATCH as following the @MapleLeafs win over Boston @Marner93 hands his his stick to a young girl sporting a Leafs jersey and a sign that read, "Marner #16 I am your future wife Can I have a stick? … or a ring" #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/elwi4qL1Lp
— CityNews Toronto (@CityNews) April 20, 2019
Scoreless through 40 minutes, Leafs defenceman Travis Dermott made a huge shot block on Sean Kuraly early in the third.
The Leafs got their first power play – after getting whistled for three against – when the Bruins were called for too many men on the ice, but couldn’t get anything through despite some good pressure before Matthews broke the deadlock.
The Leafs missed a big chance to grab a 3-1 stranglehold at Scotiabank Arena in Game 5, falling behind 2-0 early and 5-2 in the third period before a late rally came up short in a 6-4 loss.
Boston, which beat Toronto in seven games both last spring and in 2013 at the same stage of the playoffs, got its second power play of the evening early in the second, but Andersen stopped Patrice Bergeron on the Bruins’ best chance.
The Leafs goalie made another good save later in the period on Brad Marchand before Mitch Marner fired the puck over the glass to hand the home side its third straight man advantage.
But the only real opportunity came when Kapanen, who entered with three points in his last 19 games, fired high over Rask’s net on a short-handed breakaway. The winger scored on a similar play while killing a penalty last spring – a goal that gave Toronto a 4-3 lead in Game 7.
Boston appeared to go ahead with 7:21 left in the period, but Krejci’s shot that looked to have gone in at first glance hit the post and stayed out, much to the chagrin of the mostly black-and-yellow clad 17,565 at TD Garden.
Tyler Ennis had another look for Toronto, stepping around Matt Grzelcyk off the rush only to have Rask get a glove on his short-side effort.
After being largely held in check through the first nine periods of the series at 5 on 5, the Bruins’ top line of Marchand, Bergeron and David Pastrnak registered six points in Game 4, although the latter played with Krejci and Jake DeBrusk most of the night as head coach Bruce Cassidy gave the Leafs a different setup.
Those combinations continued early Friday, with Danton Heinen against skating on the right side with Marchand and Bergeron, until Pastrnak was reunited with his usual linemates in the second.
Trailing the Bruins 3-1 in the series at this time last year, the Leafs pulled off a 4-3 victory at TD Garden to force Game 6 back in Toronto. The Leafs would win that one 3-1, but fell 7-4 in Game 7 in Boston after leading 4-3 through two periods.
Toronto carried over its strong play late in Game 4 into Friday’s opening period, but failed to generate any quality chances other than a deflection off the stick of Matthews that Rask handled.
Boston started to push near the midway point, with Pastrnak and DeBrusk coming close from in tight.
The Bruins got a power play, which had torched the Leafs for five goals on 11 chances through four games, but the visitors held firm. Andersen made a couple of big stops, including one on Bergeron.
Notes: Kuraly returned to Boston’s fourth line after breaking his right hand on March 21. Joakin Nordstrom was a healthy scratch. … Puck drop Sunday is set for 3 p.m. ET. Boston played 12 afternoon games in the regular season, while Toronto suited up for only one – Jan. 3 at home against Minnesota.