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

Campbell River mom’s iPhone containing priceless photos stolen from Victoria hospital parkade

The phone contained photos, heartbeat recordings of her late son

Ucluelet Aquarium wraps up season with release day event

Residents help release charismatic critters on Dec. 7.

Tofino shops set to sparkle during weekend’s Jingle Into Christmas celebration

“It’s like a family reunion. It’s nice to see the locals’ faces.”

Child care sector feels the squeeze in Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District

There are five children for every licensed child care space in the ACRD

Surfrider Pacific Rim hopes unique wetsuit recycling program stays local to the Coast

“We really want to see someone locally or regionally take this on and use this material locally.”

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

B.C.-born hockey official talks to IIHF about switching European rule book to NHL rules

Rob Shick will represent NHL at 4th World Hockey Forum in Russia

Miller nets winner as Canucks edge Sabres 6-5 in OT

Roussel, Leivo tally two apiece for Vancouver

‘Norovirus-like’ outbreak interrupts Bantam hockey showcase in Greater Victoria

Several athletes were sent home, quarantined on the ferry

$578: that’s how much your first distracted driving ticket will cost with recent premium hikes

Over 50 per cent of Canadians admitted to using phone while driving last year, according to study

Kelowna man attempts to steal bait bike from RCMP parking lot

38-year-old Brian Richard Harbison is facing several charges

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

B.C. pharmaceutical company’s stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Most Read