Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews (34) celebrates his goal with Nikita Zaitsev during the third period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins in Boston, Friday, April 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Maple Leafs a win away from reaching second round for first time since 2004

Jake Muzzin’s message to his teammates ahead of Game 6 against Boston was simple: don’t be tentative

Jake Muzzin knows about closing out series in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Maple Leafs defenceman won a Stanley Cup as a member of the L.A. Kings in 2014 and is one of just four players in Toronto’s room to play past the first round in the post-season.

Muzzin’s message to his teammates ahead of Sunday’s Game 6 against Boston was simple: don’t be tentative.

“You don’t sit back, that’s for sure. You go after it,” he said Saturday after an optional skate at Scotiabank Arena. “You go after it and it’s the toughest game to win because they’re desperate alright. So we have to be just as desperate and hungry. We can’t sit back and let them take the game to us.

“We have to go out and play our game and use home ice tomorrow as our advantage.”

The Maple Leafs edged the hometown Bruins 2-1 on Friday night to take a 3-2 series lead. Toronto is one win away from advancing to the second round for the first time since 2004.

Muzzin, Ron Hainsey, Patrick Marleau and John Tavares are the only members of the current Leafs roster with previous experience winning that elusive fourth game in a best-of-seven series. The Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers are the only teams in the salary-cap era who have not advanced to the second round.

In 2016, Tavares helped the New York Islanders close out the Florida Panthers in six games. The Islanders needed double overtime in Games 5 and 6 to advance.

“It’s such a fine line, but that’s all you keep focusing on: that next shift and the next opportunity,” said Tavares. “You never quit, you never stop competing until it’s over. When I was in that situation, we tied it late and won it in overtime.

“It’s a good experience to draw on and go out there and focus and prepare as best you can.”

For Leafs coach Mike Babcock, closing out the series against the Bruins would be the next step in the maturation process for his group.

“For sure, but it’s always the hardest,” Babcock said. “You know, there hasn’t been a whole lot of momentum carried in the series. There’s actually been none. So I think it’s important we understand how we have to play and get prepared to do that and then play.

“I think it’s important to enjoy the crowd and the atmosphere and all that, but we’ve got to get down to business and take care of the puck.”

Puck drop is set for 3 p.m. on Sunday. It’s Toronto’s earliest start since a Jan. 2 game against the Minnesota Wild, which the Maple Leafs lost 4-3. Boston, meanwhile, played 12 afternoon games in the regular season.

Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews said the start time doesn’t change much when it comes to pre-game preparation.

“I guess no nap, but that’s about it,” he said.

Notes: Marleau and Zach Hyman were the lone Maple Leafs not to take part in the optional skate. Babcock said both were expected to play Sunday. … Toronto’s last series win was a seven-game victory over the Ottawa Senators in 2004.

Dhiren Mahiban, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Section of Island Highway north of Nanaimo isn’t safe

I hope politicians will do something about this issue, says letter writer

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Latest scam going around claims credit card misuse

Scam involves someone calling to report fictitious purchases on a credit card, says letter writer

Proposed 76-unit residential development would neighbour north Nanaimo mall

Council approves first and second reading of re-zoning application for 4961 Songbird Pl.

Map on Elections Canada site sends voters to Cedar landfill

Address for polling station correct, but Google Map address differs

Nanaimo software designer creates hunting-themed card game

Duck Buck Moose involves skill, cunning and luck of the draw

Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates compare, contrast platforms on debate stage

Energy policy, veterans’ affairs and more debated Thursday at Beban Park

Canadian Snowbirds plane crashes before air show in Atlanta

Pilot lands safely after ejecting from jet

Share crash data, private insurers tell David Eby, ICBC

B.C. monopoly makes drivers retrieve their own records

Vancouver Island doctor rushed to help Hurricane Dorian victims days after his retirement

Potts was asked by Samaritan’s Purse to help at a field hospital in Freeport

Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates share priorities and reasons for running

Eight of nine candidates in the riding respond to Black Press questionnaire

South Nanaimo cabin containing mining artifacts burns down

Cabin was unoccupied at time of incident, say firefighters

B.C. VIEWS: Wolf kill, not backcountry bans, saving caribou

B.C.’s largest herds turn the corner from extinction

Pearson nets shootout winner as Canucks clip Flyers 3-2

Vancouver picks up second straight home win

Most Read