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Bruins outplayed by Maple Leafs in Game 6, setting up Game 7 in Boston

BOSTON -- Buckle up, Bruins fans. Boston will be hosting a Game 7. Again.

With a second chance to wrap up their first-round series against the Maple Leafs, the Bruins came up short yet again on Thursday night, losing 2-1 in Game 6. That loss came after a dud-level performance by the Bruins in Boston in Game 5, which leaves the team facing a win-or-go-home Game 7 on Saturday night at TD Garden. The Bruins are now very much at risk of blowing a 3-1 lead in the opening round of the playoffs for a second consecutive year.

The Bruins mustered just one shot on goal in the first period and were badly outplayed to start the second period, too. Late in that second period, the Leafs took a 1-0 lead on a shot from William Nylander, with Charlie McAvoy blocking Jeremy Swayman's vision of the puck.  

With Boston desperate for a game-tying goal late in the third period, Nylander struck again, this time walking in all alone into the Bruins' zone and slipping a backhand through Swayman's five-hole with 2:13 remaining in the game.

Morgan Geekie scored a goal for Boston with 0.1 seconds left in regulation, but it ultimately only proved to spoil Joseph Woll's shutout while allowing for a mini-scrum at center ice following the faceoff at the final buzzer. Woll stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced, and he's now 2-0 with a .964 save percentage since taking the crease from Ilya Samsonov.

Swayman was excellent again for Boston, stopping 24 shots, but it once again came in a losing effort.

For the Bruins and the fans who will pack the building on Saturday night, a Game 7 -- specifically, a Game 7 on home ice against Toronto -- is anything but unfamiliar territory.

Just last year, the Bruins led the Panthers 3-1 in their first-round series before losing Game 5 and 6 to set up a Game 7. In that Game 7 on home ice, the Bruins let a 3-2 lead slip away in the final minute of regulation before losing on a Carter Verhaeghe game-winner 8:35 into overtime.

A year prior, the Bruins won Game 6 at home to force a Game 7 in Carolina, a game that the Hurricanes won 3-2 to advance to the second round.

Even though last year's team put together a historically successful regular-season campaign, those two Game 7's pale in comparison to the magnitude of the infamous Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2019. In that one, the Bruins fell behind late in the first period before allowing that deficit to grow to 2-0 just before the first intermission. The visiting Blues stretched the lead to 3-0 and then 4-0 in the third period, with the Bruins ultimately losing 4-1 and having to watch the Blues parade the Stanley Cup around the TD Garden ice.

Understandably, hockey fans in Boston may feel a bit uneasy heading into Saturday night.

If they're looking for a reason to feel positive, though, there is the fact that the Bruins played another Game 7 in that 2019 postseason run, and they beat the Maple Leafs in Boston by a 5-1 final score to get out of the first round.

And the year before that, in 2018, the Bruins likewise needed a Game 7 in the first round, a game that they also won ... against Toronto.

The Bruins did lose a Game 7 in the second round against Montreal in 2014, though in 2013, well, as everybody remembers, the Bruins famously beat the Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the first round.

Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin celebrate the game-winning goal against Toronto in 2013. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Just to round out the Game 7 history of what we can call the most modern era of Bruins hockey, the team lost Game 7's in 2008, 2009 and 2010 to Montreal, Carolina and Philadelphia, respectively. But they won three Game 7's -- against Montreal, Tampa Bay and Vancouver -- en route to winning the Cup in 2011. Then the 2012 team lost in Game 7 of the first round to Washington.

Prior to 2008, the Bruins played in just one Game 7 -- in 2004 -- in the previous 13 years. Yet since 2008, the Bruins will have played in 15 Game 7's in a 16-year span.

Add in the anxiety that comes from watching the Bruins get outplayed for two consecutive games after taking a 3-1 series lead, and it's a lot for the region's collective heart rate to handle.

The common thread though all of those games? There is none. A Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is frenzied and unpredictable, and though teams need to play well to win, the final result can often come off an odd bounce or bad break. Some are high-scoring, some are low-scoring. Some are tight, some are blowouts. And some -- the best of the best or worst of the worst, depending on your outlook -- require overtime.

It's the most chaotic event in sports. Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's something that everybody should experience every now and then, but it's something the Bruins have endured a bit more than they'd probably like to over the years.

And it's coming for Boston on Saturday night.

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