TORONTO — Jake Gardiner and his teammates from the Toronto Maple Leafs have learned to keep their composure.
The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Boston Bruins 4-3 in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series on Saturday. Toronto held a 4-1 lead 11:55 into the second period and hung on to cut Boston's advantage in the series to 3-2, and force Game 6 on Monday at Air Canada Centre.
Gardiner was one of a handful of players who were on the Leafs five years ago when Toronto gave up a 4-1 lead in Game 7 of their first-round playoff matchup against the Bruins. Much like that game in 2013, the Bruins continued to attack Toronto's zone on Saturday, with Boston outshooting the Leafs 20-5 in the third period.
"I'm glad we got over that curse, and that's out of our minds now," said Gardiner. "During that series, it was pretty tense on the bench, especially when they scored to make it 4-3.
"Last night, we just tried to relax and stay calm and keep playing and not let our foot off the gas."
Aiding the Bruins in their attempted comeback bid was a lack of discipline from the Leafs. Boston was awarded six power plays on Saturday compared to just one for Toronto.
Issues with special teams played a role in putting Toronto down 2-0 in the series. They allowed a combined five power-play goals over 10 opportunities in Games 1 and 2.
On Saturday, the Leafs gave Boston six power-play attempts and killed off five of them.
"Stay out of the penalty box," Leafs coach Mike Babcock said on Sunday in Toronto. "The game was going perfect, and then it was a parade to the box."
There has been a large disparity in power-play opportunities for both teams during the series. Toronto has been shorthanded 18 times compared to just 10 for Boston.
The imbalance of penalties has made some question the validity of the calls more than others.
"When you look at the penalties, there are certain ones you have to call," said Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly. "When you slash and break a stick, it's not what you are trying to do, but that's what happens, you've got to call it. They (the officials) did a good job. It's not the way we want to play."
Babcock was also diplomatic about what he thought of the referees.
"That's a really nice question," he said when asked twice about the officiating. "Ask me that in that summer."
Outside of penalty trouble and the storyline that surrounded a 4-1 lead, Babcock was satisfied with the way Toronto had performed when both teams were at full strength.
"At no time during the game last night — and you don't have to believe this if you don't want to — did I ever feel we were going to lose," he said. "Why did I feel like that? I don't know. Some nights you are playing a game so poorly you feel like you are never going to win. Last night wasn't one of those nights."
The Leafs will dress the same lineup against the Bruins on Monday. With the game contested at Air Canada Centre, Toronto will take advantage of the second line change to allow for better matchups against the Bruins line combinations.
Leafs forward Leo Komarov remains out with a lower-body injury.
"I've been told he's at 85 per cent," Babcock said. "Eighty-five per cent doesn't cut it at playoff time. When you're ready to play, you have a chance to get in."
Komarov has been out of the lineup since he was injured in Game 2 of the series.
David Alter, The Canadian Press