While they were one of the strongest teams in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, they have been taken apart by the Boston Bruins in the first two games of the series and must find a way to turn it around when the two teams meet on Monday night. Nazem Kadri still has two games to serve on his suspension for boarding Tommy Wingels in Game 1.
Plekanec, who has registered just two assists in 19 games (including playoffs) with the Leafs, will line up between Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau on Toronto's top checking line.
The highlight was Auston Matthews, the 2016 No. 1 overall draft pick who scored 76 goals in his first two pro seasons, finally lighting the lamp for the first time in the series. That carried over into the second period, too. Among his 40 saves, he made a key stop on Boston second-line centre David Krejci in the second period and made an incredible diving stick save on Pastrnak near the end.
With the series shifting to Air Canada Centre, a push from the Leafs was expected early and the hosts did have it early on. Midway through the first, he was able to got his glove arm on an Andreas Johnsson one-timer.
Between Tomas Plekanec delivering a positive return with Babcock's contentious decision to pit him against the Bergeron unit and Freddie Andersen's exquisite final frame, there are plenty of points to build on now, as the Maple Leafs aim to even up a series they seemed hopelessly overmatched in just a few hours ago.
Nash has been out since March 31 after being struck in the ear by a slapshot. Replays, however, clearly indicated the puck bounced off the top of the glass, so the penalty should not have been called. But after a powwow with all four officials, referee Brad Meier waved Nash into the box.
So what side should you back? James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Connor Brown remained together on the only line that has remained a constant for the Leafs this postseason.
The Bruins dominated Toronto in two games in Boston, but don't discount the Maple Leafs.
Things grew tighter in the second period, a little tighter than they should have thanks to goaltender Frederik Andersen. That move was huge, as the B's trio were held off the scoreboard and combined for a -7 rating, while the second line from the Leafs had two goals, three assists, and a +6 rating.
Toronto's defense has been sliced and diced, and its penalty kill has been embarrassed by the ferocity and efficiency of the Boston attack. Veteran Patrick Marleau gave his team a much-needed insurance goal with 3:35 left to make the game 4-2. Kuraly fed Zdeno Chara out high and the captain wheeled his way down low. But Andersen committed the cardinal sin for goalies - he let in another softie after his teammates worked mightily to get the lead back. He was held scoreless and couldn't generate many scoring chances against the Patrice Bergeron line. While they were enthusiastic, there was a pensive air, as if the fans could not quite believe the Leafs were finally competing for pucks and using their speed to their advantage.
The B's had a couple of great chance to tie it up once again before the second period was over.
Matthews exploded once he double-checked the puck was indeed rattling inside the Boston Bruins' net - and that he hadn't suffered a Kasperi Kapanen-like fate.