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Early goals help lift Bruins beat Maple Leafs 5-1 in Game 7

BOSTON (AP) — Another Game 7 matchup between Boston and Toronto, another victory for the Bruins.

Joakim Nordstrom and Sean Kuraly each had a goal and assist, Tuukka Rask stopped 32 shots and the Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 5-1 in Game 7 on Tuesday night to wrap up their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

Marcus Johansson added his first goal of the postseason for Boston and Charlie Coyle scored on an empty netter late in the third. Patrice Bergeron also had a late goal.

It is the Bruins’ second straight Game 7 win over the Maple Leafs and third in three playoff matchups between the teams. Boston previously knocked Toronto out of the postseason with Game 7 victories in 2018 and 2013. The Maple Leafs have now lost six straight road Game 7s.

The teams had alternated wins in this series until the Bruins won the last two games.

“I just think the last two games the character of this group shone,” Johansson said. “We earned our way to Game 7 in Toronto and to a win tonight. That’s a good feeling.”

Boston advances to the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Columbus Blue Jackets, starting with Game 1 at home on Thursday night.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said his team benefited from contributions up and down their roster but said Rask may have come up the biggest.

“Generally speaking you need your goaltender to hold you in there,” Cassidy said. “He was outstanding.”

John Tavares had Toronto’s goal on an assist by Tyler Ennis. Frederik Andersen finished with 27 saves.

The Maple Leafs’ loss means there are no Canadian teams remaining in the playoffs. Calgary and Winnipeg previously lost their first-round series.

“It’s disappointing. I thought our series this year compared to last year, we were a way better hockey club. In the end, we weren’t rewarded,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said.

The Bruins led 2-1 after two periods and needed just 2:40 of the third to add to it.

Toronto got into Boston’s zone before the puck was poked out near the center of the ice and controlled by Kuraly. He promptly split between Tavares and Ron Hainsey, crossed in front of Morgan Rielly and fired a shot past Andersen to give the Bruins a two-goal edge.

Boston came up empty on multiple early shot attempts before its fourth line broke through with the game’s first goal.

Nordstrom found a small seam left open by Andersen and slipped the puck past him to put the Bruins up 1-0 with 5:31 left in the first period. Matt Grzelcyk and Kuraly got assists.

Nordstrom said the team talked before the game about having a “shot-first mentality.” He said he was the beneficiary of Kuraly pressing the front of the net.

“It ended up going in, so we’ll take it,” Nordstrom said.

A little over two minutes later Toronto’s Jake Gardiner gave it away behind his own net after being forechecked by Karson Kuhlman. Johansson controlled the puck, spun in front and fired a quick shot just inside the left post to make it 2-0.

Toronto struck back at 3:54 of the second. Ennis jarred the puck loose with his forecheck on Grzelcyk. The puck found its way to Tavares, who punched through his second goal of the playoffs to pull the Maple Leafs to 2-1.

Toronto got a one-man advantage with 11:38 left in the second after Brandon Carlo was called for a cross-check on Andreas Johnsson. Boston’s defense stepped up, dodging eight Maple Leafs shot attempts to notch the penalty kill.

Tempers flared briefly just before the end of the period after Toronto was called for an offside. But a potential fight was quickly broken up.

It happened again in front of the Maple Leafs’ bench just after time expired in the second. Brad Marchand and Auston Matthews were in the middle of the scrum. It, too, was brief and ceased after only some mild shoving.

Both teams combining for eight shots on goal in first seven minutes.

One of the best early runs was by the Maple Leafs midway through the opening period.

Mitchell Marner weaved his way through Boston’s defense on a one-man rush and got off a clean shot from just outside the faceoff circles. But Rask had plenty of time to set up and was there to corral it. He also stopped two other close attempts by Marner.

Tavares said Toronto left the ice with a lot to lament.

“There were opportunities where we had the lead in the series and we weren’t able to really put them in a tough spot,” he said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

NOTES: The Bruins improved to 15-12 in Game 7s (14-8 at home). Toronto falls to 12-12 in Game 7s (5-11 on the road). … Tavares’ goal in the second period was his first-ever Game 7 goal in his second such contest. .. No Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since Montreal in 1993.

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