BOSTON (AP) — Jake DeBrusk watched the tiebreaking goal go into the net from ice level, sliding into the boards on his backside after he was flattened by Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner.
The Bruins rookie didn’t even have time to climb up off his knees before he was mobbed by teammates.
“Jake had a real coming-out party in the series,” coach Bruce Cassidy said after DeBrusk scored twice to help Boston beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-4 on Wednesday night and advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“He scored going to the net, dirty areas,” said Cassidy, whose team opens the second round against the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Saturday. “That’s always the first thing: play inside, be willing to get hit, fight for your space. That’s playoff hockey. They weren’t freebies. They’ve been real greasy, as advertised.”
Five years after rallying from a three-goal, third-period deficit and beating Toronto in Game 7 of their first-round series, the Bruins again scored four straight goals to eliminate the Maple Leafs. After Kasperi Kapanen put Toronto ahead 4-3 with a short-handed goal in the second, Torey Krug tied it, DeBrusk gave Boston the lead with 14:35 to play.
Despite the final score, the teams were tied or separated by one goal for the first 2 1/2 periods, until David Pastrnak made it 6-4 with 8:21 to play. Brad Marchand flipped one into the empty net with 51 seconds left to set off a celebration in the stands.
“For entertainment value, that was probably one of the better Game 7s you’ll see,” said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who stopped just 20 of 24 shots. “It was only a one-goal game going into the third and we shut it down and scored some good goals.”
Danton Heinen scored his first NHL postseason goal, Patrice Bergeron had a goal and two assists, and David Krejci had three assists for the Bruins. In his first NHL postseason action, DeBrusk had seven points in seven games.
“Uh, it went pretty well,” he said with a laugh. “Obviously, with the win it was special — something I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget this series just in general, first playoffs. I was really happy to contribute.”
Frederik Andersen had 29 saves for the Maple Leafs, who have not won a playoff series since 2004. They came close in the first round in 2013, when they rallied from a three-games-to-one deficit against Boston and took a 4-1 lead in Game 7.
“It’s always disappointing,” said Patrick Marleau, who scored twice for Toronto. “Obviously, you’re trying to win the Cup. To fall short once again, it’s heartbreaking every time.”
Travis Dermott also scored for the Maple Leafs, who again won back-to-back games after falling behind 3-1 in the series. Game 6 came in Toronto on the night that a man drove a van onto a crowded sidewalk in the city, killing 10 people and injuring more than a dozen others.
The teams combined for five goals in the first period before Toronto scored twice in the second, taking a 4-3 lead when Kapanen beat Marchand to a loose puck and then held him off, skidding to a stop in front of Rask before poking the around his left skate.
In the third, the Bruins scored two 4-on-4 goals after matching penalties opened up the ice. Krug made it 4-4 on a slapper from the point just 1:10 in, and then DeBrusk put the Bruins ahead.
“I think that we’re all just pretty excited right now to have a chance to continue playing together and take on Tampa,” DeBrusk said. “We’re going to enjoy this one tonight, but then go back to the drawing board.”
Notes: Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, in his first full season on the Boston bench, was named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s coach of the year. ... Celtics Hall of Famer Tommy Heinsohn was the honorary fan banner captain, getting the crowd riled up before the game. ... The Bruins are 14-12 in Game 7s and Toronto is 12-11. ... Boston’s Kevan Miller had two assists for his first multi-point playoff game.