Leafs stay in playoff race with OT win over Bruins

Toronto celebrates a 4-3 overtime win with a goal by Nazem Kadri. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated...

Toronto celebrates a 4-3 overtime win with a goal by Nazem Kadri. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Boston Bruins 4-3 in overtime in a regular season National Hockey League game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Thursday April 3, 2014. (Michael Peake/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:19 PM ET

Don’t call the coroner just yet.

The Maple Leafs, with their No. 1 goalie in the dressing room nursing a lower-body injury, beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 in overtime on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre, an important win if there ever was one.

Nazem Kadri lifted the puck over Bruins goalie Chad Johnson at 2:51 of the extra period, giving the Leafs a badly needed second point.

Toronto went into the game a point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, owners of the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Blue Jackets won 2-0 in Philadelphia against the Flyers and have 85 points, with six games to play.

The Maple Leafs have 84 points and four games remaining.

Before 19,619 fans at the ACC, Jonathan Bernier gingerly made his way off the ice with 11:38 remaining in the third period after Paul Ranger pushed Patrice Bergeron on to the goaltender.

With Ranger in the box for interference, James Reimer, who had not played since March 23 in New Jersey, stopped three shots on the Bruins’ power play and there were chants of “Let’s go Reimer!”

But the Bruins weren’t discouraged, and kept up their usual dominance of the Leafs.

Down by two after 40 minutes, Boston tied the game at 12:51 of the third when Bergeron drained a low shot past Reimer. Ranger figured in the play prominently, as he was unable to corral a quicker Brad Marchand, who scooted around the Leafs net and passed to Bergeron. Reimer couldn’t see much through a screen and the life was sucked out of the ACC.

It was an NHL-high 23rd time the Leafs had coughed up a third-period lead this season.

Milan Lucic scored at 5:03 to cut the Leafs’ lead to one goal, beating Bernier along the ice from the slot.

Ranger, Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk scored for the Leafs.

Marchand also scored for the Bruins.

The Leafs didn’t have Joffrey Lupul, who was scratched because of a lower-body injury.

Lupul has participated in the morning skate, but it’s thought that the injury has been nagging him for a while.

Lupul’s absence, combined with seven defencemen in uniform, meant coach Randy Carlyle did some line shuffling. The top line remained intact, and Mason Raymond was moved on to a unit with Dave Bolland and David Clarkson. Jay McClement was between Nikolai Kulemin and Troy Bodie, a trio that had some good moments, while Nazem Kadri and Jerry D’Amigo were left to pick up some scraps.

The Leafs led 2-1 after the opening 20 minutes. They got the kind of fortunate bounce they didn’t get during their eight-game losing streak, as Phil Kessel’s high pass to Bozak went off the centre’s chest and into the net behind Johnson. After a brief review, the goal was allowed.

The lead was increased to 3-1 when van Riemsdyk reached 30 goals for the first time in his NHL career. Kessel intercepted a Dougie Hamilton pass behind the Bruins net and centred to van Riemsdyk, who popped the puck over Johnson 52 seconds into the second period.

For their efforts, the Leafs couldn’t stop giving the puck away. No less than seven times in the first period, to be exact, and the fumbling fun continued in the second.

The most glaring error resulted in the Bruins’ first goal, which came 56 seconds after Ranger had given the Leafs a 1-0 lead at the six-minute mark of the first period.

Few NHL teams pressure the puck as well as the Bruins — certainly, no team in the Eastern Conference does it as well — and that forecheck caused Mason Raymond to rush a pass to Cody Franson, who in turn became a deer in headlights with Bergeron bearing down on him. Franson feebly threw the puck into the middle of the ice, where it was gathered by Marchand.

A quick shot by Marchand over Bernier’s left shoulder tied the game 1-1.

Ranger, a day after he was voted as the Leafs’ nominee for the Masterton Trophy, got his fifth goal when he jumped into the play and beat Johnson with a backhand.

Clarkson fought for the ninth time this season, tying him with the demoted Frazer McLaren for the Leafs lead. But it was not much of a scrap, as Clarkson was tagged hard by Lucic after the two dropped their gloves in the second period.

Bernier had to be sharp to stop a Torey Krug backhand after the Leafs had a 3-1 lead, a scoring chance that came after Morgan Rielly’s weak outlet pass to Kessel was taken by the Bruins’ rookie defenceman.


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