By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bruins winger David Pastrnak spent the majority of the first period of Game 4 as a spectator.
And if it was a message Cassidy was trying to send his slumping star, there’s no doubt it was received — and at a perfect time, no less — as Pastrnak returned with a vengeance in a 6-4 final to tie this first-round series at 2-2.
With the Bruins seeing their 2-0 lead evaporate behind goals from Zach Hyman and Auston Matthews (and with the Matthews goal coming on a shot B’s netminder Tuukka Rask absolutely has to stop), Pastrnak woke up and got the B’s on the board off a great feed from Brad Marchand just 2:09 after the Matthews goal.
Not done, Pastrnak got on the board with his second goal of the night (and series) on a power-play puck pummeled through the Leafs’ Frederik Andersen just 1:35 later to re-establish Boston’s two-goal edge.
From there, the Maple Leafs once again turned the pressure up on Rask and Co., and finished with 26 shots through 40 minutes of action. But Rask recovered from the Matthews muffin, and stepped his game up to keep the lead at two.
The Bruins extended their lead to three with a Zdeno Chara shot through traffic and Andersen.
But a heart attack finish came with two Toronto goals in a 1:35 stretch in the third period, and with the Bruins very much on their heels until Joakim Nordstrom put the finishing touches on the win with a last-second empty-net goal.
This was hardly a masterpiece from the Bruins.
The Bruins were by all means territorially dominated by the Maple Leafs at even-strength after the 10-minute mark of the first period. Their fourth line was drowning in the defensive zone, and was borderline unplayable for prolonged stretches. The Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-Pastrnak line got off to a rough start, and never really appeared to have their legs as a three-man unit. You could hardly find a victor on the Black and Gold roster in this possession battle as a whole, actually, as only the Bergeron Line (with Danton Heinen in Pastrnak’s place) and Chara were pluses through 40 minutes of play. Even Matt Grzelcyk, a consistent analytics darling, struggled mightily on the possession and chances front.
It was also an absolute shooting gallery against Rask, who finished the night with 38 saves on 42 shots, throughout the night.
But the Bruins won, which at this point in the series — and with the Black and Gold in danger of returning to Boston down three games to one had they lost — is all they could have asked for on Wednesday night.
Game 5 is Friday night at TD Garden.