Bergeron may not be available when Bruins host Maple Leafs
BOSTON -- On the verge of their first playoff series win in four years, the Boston Bruins may or not have star and leader Patrice Bergeron back for Game 5 of their first-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
The Leafs, facing elimination as they seek their first series win since 2004 (and the Original Six franchise's first Stanley Cup since 1967), know they will get one of their best players back Saturday as Nazem Kadri returns from a three-game suspension for a hit in Game 1.
But will it help?
The Bruins, playing without late-scratch Bergeron (upper body), took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with a 3-1 victory over Toronto on Thursday. They need one win to advance as Bergeron's status remained unclear Friday.
The team canceled practice, but Bergeron was on the ice at the team's practice facility with a handful of players early and no decision was announced about Saturday. He has not been ruled out and coach Bruce Cassidy called it "a positive" that Bergeron was skating.
Riley Nash slid into Bergeron's spot on the top line and played a strong game, helping set up the first goal of the game just 28 seconds after faceoff.
Kadri, who charged Tommy Wingels while Wingels was on his knees against the boards, cost his team dearly when the NHL hit him with the suspension -- thus costing the Leafs a 32-goal scorer and one of their best two-way players.
Now he's back.
"Obviously, he's a good player," Leafs coach Mike Babcock said Friday. "It's unfortunate for him that he missed three games, but the way I look at it on our team is you've got to be able to pick each other up. We weren't able to do that.
"He comes back, he'll make us deeper and we're excited to have him back. Plus, he'll have good energy for us. It's important to have that going into Boston."
Kadri, who was "disappointed" at the punishment, said, "It's exciting to get back in. I've been champing at the bit the last couple of games here and it's been hard to watch knowing that you could be out there trying to help and trying to make an impact. I'm happy the time is come."
The Bruins won the first two games of the series at home, then lost Game 3 in Toronto before riding goaltender Tuukka Rask to Thursday night's road win.
"Tuukka was our savior tonight," said Bruins rookie Jake DeBrusk, who made it 3-1 with a third-period goal.
Rask made 31 saves in the victory.
"Tonight we needed him to dig and be very good. And he was," said Cassidy, whose team stumbled down the stretch to lose out to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the battle for the top spot in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference before getting off to a strong playoff start.
Brad Marchand, who scored the winning goal, said, "(Rask) played a phenomenal game. He's one of the best goalies in the world and he gives us an opportunity to win every night. He made a lot of big saves early on to give us a chance to get back in the game. We really need to give him a lot of credit for tonight."
The Leafs know what they're up against, needing three straight wins to upset the higher seed -- and Babcock says the attitude is good.
"We talked about that here today," he said. "The bottom line is -- I don't know how many of you saw this, but last night out there in Maple Leaf Square, they put that on TV. I talked about the national anthem the other day and then last night. To me, if you're these players and you've seen that, you want to see it again.
"The only way we get to see it again is we've got to win to play. We've got to dig in. We've got to compete harder, we've got to play better. I thought we did tons of good things last night, we didn't give up very much, we made a couple of mistakes on a couple of two-on-ones and they didn't go our way. Dig in and make it go your way. I think you've got to enjoy part of the duress of this time of year. Embrace it."
Updated April 20, 2018