Auston Matthews dominates in Maple Leafs’ Game 2 rally: ‘That’s big-time stuff’

Auston Matthews scored the game-winner and added a pair of assists, Max Domi supplied another goal and assist and Ilya Samsonov starred with 27 saves as the Toronto Maple Leafs rebounded from an ugly Game 1 to defeat the Boston Bruins 3-2.

BOSTON — The scoreboard was deadlocked 2-2 after 52 intense back-and-forth minutes, and everyone at TD Garden seemingly knew the night’s next goal would be its final one.

Were that puck to come flying off a Boston Bruins stick, well, the Toronto Maple Leafs would be in tough to rally from an 0-2 series deficit.

The locals tried rousing Boston with chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” when the greatest American hockey player of the day — the one with a Maple Leaf stitched to his chest — spotted a lane, gathered some speed, gloved down a Max Domi flip pass like a wide receiver in full stride, and deked Linus Ullmark into the place where goalie hugs go to die.

Game winner: 3-2. Series tied 1-1.

“It’s just happening so fast, you don’t really have time to think,” Matthews said of the deciding sequence. “It’s honestly kind of instincts and just trying to make the right play.”

“Great play by Boosh,” recalled Domi, the quarterback between Ilya Lyubushkin’s exit snap and Matthews’ go route. “Tried to catch him a little bit in transition, and Tone took off. So, just threw it up, and he did the rest.”

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Seldom did Matthews — hot off his record-setting 69-goal regular season — make the wrong play on Monday, the night he finally uncovered his 70th.

In addition to his clutch breakaway finish, Matthews registered the primary assist on Toronto’s other goals (by Domi and John Tavares), ripped a game-high eight shots, threw a game-high-tying six hits, went a dominant 16-for-23 in the faceoff dot, and led all Maple Leafs in ice time (23:24). He also bailed out his goalie with a save in the Leafs’ blue paint.

A tour de force performance when the Maple Leafs — who are sorely missing 40-goal star William Nylander and had never led in the series until the Matthews goal — required one.

“A big goal for us,” Tyler Bertuzzi said. “Something we all needed. And we shut them down after.”

Added coach Sheldon Keefe: “That’s big-time stuff, the way those guys connected there in the finish.”

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The Bruins had every opportunity to take a series stranglehold before fumbling leads of 1-0 and 2-1 and committing two too-many-men infractions.

Two maybe goals by Toronto never stuck on the scoreboard after video review, and David Pastrnak’s go-ahead strike with a scant eight seconds left in the first period had all the makings of a backbreaker.

And yet, whether it was goalie Ilya Samsonov zoning back in after getting his mask blown off by a Charlie Coyle headshot; Domi responding with his first playoff goal in Dad’s uniform just 14 seconds after Morgan Geekie’s opening goal; or Toronto’s troubled penalty kill doing the job with Bertuzzi in the box for a reckless slash of Brad Marchand, the Leafs steadied when doubt threatened to win the night.

“I loved our resolve tonight,” Keefe said.

“That goal into the period there obviously gives them life and momentum going into the second. And the game has potential now to be, in the back of your mind, similar to the one the other night.

“We didn’t let that happen.”

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Yes, the comeback was a group project, but Matthews was the lead contributor.

“He’s world-class in everything he does,” Tavares said. “When you see the drive every single day and the passion for the game and wanting to be such a difference-maker night in and night out, and certainly this time of year, having the night like he did was massive for our group.”

“The goal is one thing,” the captain added. “Obviously special. Not many guys in the world with those instincts and the hands and finishing ability. But the competitive aspect, winning battles, fighting for space, using his body, things he does so truly well and sets the standard for us — a hell of a game by him and just driving our team.”

Driving the Maple Leafs all the way back to Scotiabank Arena, where the Maple Leafs will have a dose of momentum and a newfound home-ice advantage in the series Wednesday.

“We needed this goal,” Samsonov said. “This guy is really important for us. We need (him to) score every game.”

Fox’s Fast Five

• Win and you’re… out?

Yes, the Bruins stayed true to their months-long goaltending rotation, sitting Game 1 winner Jeremy Swayman despite his first-star performance Saturday.

“Do any of you play Wordle?” coach Jim Montgomery asked reporters Monday morning. “The starting goalie tonight has two vowels in his first and last game… I don’t tell my wife; I’m not telling you.”  

The flip to Ullmark was highly unconventional, and the Bruins went out of their way to keep this plan — agreed upon internally days before the series began — top secret.

“I don’t know why we would divulge information,” Montgomery said. “Like, if you’re preparing a game, there’s parts of a goaltender that are part of your pre-scout. So, it’s an advantage for us, right?”

Gotta toggle back to the other guy with two vowels in his name on Thursday.

• Keefe swapped out Calle Järnkrok on the first power-play unit and promoted Tyler Bertuzzi. Both nearly scored on the man advantage.

Bertuzzi had a presumed goal wiped off the board due to a high stick, and this oh-so-close Järnkrok blast was ruled a save by Ullmark after video review:

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• Domi celebrated his goal in fierce joy by slamming the plexiglas separating him and the raucous Bruins fans.

“It’s what it’s all about right? You got to give credit to this building,” Domi said. “Good atmosphere, had some fun out there, and big win. So, excited to go home all tied at one.”

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• The Maple Leafs’ fourth line of Connor Dewar, David Kämpf, and Ryan Reaves has been a pleasant surprise and is gradually earning more trust.

Some excellent shifts of sustained O-zone pressure as the Leafs out-attempted Boston 12-5 when that group was on the ice.

“They’ve got a very clear identity. Kämpfer, Dewar — those guys can be really trusted defensively. They can give you everything they have. And Revo for quite some time,” Keefe praised, “has really done his job wonderfully. I thought he was really good here tonight again: all around the net, offensively, forecheck, really good on the wall in the defensive zone.”

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