TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs won this one for their city.
Frederik Andersen made 32 saves Monday as the Leafs defeated the Boston Bruins 3-1 to tie their first-round playoff series 3-3 and force Game 7.
The victory came hours after 10 people were killed when a van mounted a sidewalk in Toronto’s north end and struck multiple pedestrians in what was described as a “horrific attack.”
“Changes the new normal in a family’s life forever: no mom, no dad, no brother, no sister,” Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re lucky to live in such a fantastic city, great first responders and the work they’ve done. And it’s so important that we rally around these people, help ’em, do everything we can. We have a fantastic city and we can’t let this get in the way of what we’ve got going. Tragedy, to say the least.
“It was our job to do what we could to do our job here tonight … you’re just out there enjoying a beautiful day in Toronto. Senseless.”
Most of the players woke from their pre-game naps to learn of the incident at 1:30 p.m. that also injured 15 people.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale described it as a “horrific attack” in a tweet.
“We’re sending all our love,” said Leafs forward Mitch Marner, who scored the winning goal and added an assist. “It’s happening too often now, these things. It sucks. This world’s made for loving each other and making each other better.
“This is a big win for us after an emotional day.”
There was a moment of silence for the victims and their families prior the opening faceoff at Air Canada Centre.
“Very tragic event,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said.
William Nylander and Tomas Plekanec, into an empty net, also scored for the Leafs, who trailed the Eastern Conference quarterfinal 3-1 before winning two straight. Nikita Zaitsev had two assists, while Plekanec added one of his own.
Jake DeBrusk replied for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask stopped 27 shots after getting pulled in Game 5 at TD Garden.
The winner of Wednesday’s Game 7 in Boston will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning in the next round.
Scoreless after an end-to-end first period, the Bruins grabbed a 1-0 lead 1:02 into the second when David Krejci won a faceoff after an icing against Auston Matthews right to DeBrusk, who ripped a shot between Andersen’s arm and body.
Toronto responded just 35 seconds later when Nylander buried a rebound from a Jake Gardiner point shot for his first goal of the playoffs.
The Leafs appeared to go ahead at 3:04 when Zach Hyman beat Rask with a no-look backhand as he fell to the ice. But the Bruins challenged the play for goalie interference, and replays showed the winger knocked the stick out of Rask’s hand as he cruised through the crease just before scoring.
Boston took control of the period from there as Toronto could barely get out of its own zone or complete a clean breakout. Andersen — who recorded 42 stops in a 4-3 victory in Game 5 on Saturday after struggling earlier in the series — made terrific saves off Marchand, Rick Nash and Patrice Bergeron to keep things level.
“Just enjoying the moment,” Andersen said of the turnaround in his play. “Being in a do-or-die position, I think we all embrace that as a team.”
The Leafs then took an unlikely lead completely against the run of play with 6:35 left in the period when Marner was quickest to a loose puck in the slot and beat Rask with a backhand after Marchand couldn’t clear.
Toronto killed off its first penalty early in the third, and was then left fuming when David Backes elbowed Andersen in the mask, but was only assessed an offsetting roughing minor when Roman Polak came to his goalie’s defence.
The Leafs couldn’t connect on their third power play moments later, and Andersen stoned Sean Kuraly with under 10 minutes to go.
Rask then robbed Nylander off a great feed from Matthews.
The Bruins went back to the power play with six minutes left, but the best chance came when Rask stopped Kasperi Kapanen on a 2-on-1 before Andersen stoned Krejci on a one-time shot that brought the towel-waving crowd to its feet.
Rask followed that up by stopping Matthews on another 2-on-1 before Air Canada Centre exploded when Plekanec iced it into an empty net with 1:14 to play.
“Give them credit, they protected their house,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said.
The Leafs fell behind the Bruins 3-1 the last time the clubs met in the playoffs in 2013 before tying the series. Toronto then became the first team in NHL history to blow a three-goal lead in the third period of a Game 7 as Boston stormed back from a 4-1 deficit to set up a dramatic 5-4 overtime victory.
The Leafs have trailed 3-1 in a best-of-seven series 15 times, with their only victory coming in the 1942 Stanley Cup final when they erased a 3-0 deficit to beat the Detroit Red Wings.
“You don’t remember everything in your life,” said Babcock, the coach of a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff series in 14 years. “What you do is you remember moments, and you want to create those moments.
“Here’s an opportunity for us to create memories.”