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Charlie Coyle of the Boston Bruins is tied up by Matthew Knies of the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game Three of the First Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, on April 24.Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The Maple Leafs fumbled a chance to gain control of their first-round series to the Bruins on Wednesday in a tight game that ended in a 4-2 defeat. Boston has an opportunity now to take a 3-1 stranglehold in the best-of-seven with another win on Saturday at Scotiabank Arena.

Brad Marchand – boo, hiss – scored the winning goal with 8:07 remaining on a bullet of a shot over Toronto goalie Ilya Samsonov. Public Enemy No. 1 also had an empty netter and an assist.

The Maple Leafs made their own misery, going 0-for-5 on the power play. They are now 1-for-11 in the three games. Tyler Bertuzzi scored a goal but got yet another dumb penalty that led to one of Boston’s scores.

The What’s Up With Willy Show is now in its sixth day and William Nylander’s return to the lineup is still a Scooby Doo mystery. He participated in Wednesday’s morning skate and coach Sheldon Keefe said there was a “chance” he could play in Game 3.

He didn’t.

Nylander, who was second on the team with 40 goals and 98 points, appeared in all 82 regular-season games, but has missed the first three in the playoff series with an undisclosed injury. It has been cloaked in so much mystery that the sportsbook Bodog has begun to accept bets on whether Nylander will return during the series.

Kelly: After another playoff loss, it’s time for the Maple Leafs to pull a switcheroo

The Maple Leafs rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to beat the Bruins on Monday at TD Garden. Auston Matthews was dominant. He scored the winning goal on a breakaway, had assists on the other two, was credited with six hits and went 16-7 in faceoffs.

He was absent from the Wednesday morning skate but not the game. He was shut out for the second time in the series despite taking five shots.

Each of the first two games have been hard-nosed affairs in which the opponents exchanged more than 200 hits. They combined for 133 more on Wednesday.

“They are built differently than in past years,” Marchand, the Bruins captain, said. “They are a lot more physical, very committed to forechecking and playing very tight defensively. You have to give them credit. They are a top team for a reason.

“When you add their offensive ability on top of that they are a tough team to play right now. We knew it was going to be a battle. They have showed up. They are playing for keeps.”

There were some more rock-em sock-em moments. Ryan Reaves clocked Pavel Zacha in the first period; Marchand elbowed his former teammate Bertuzzi in the face and afterward was giggling on the bench. No penalty was assessed.

“You have to recognize a world-class player and how he plays,” Keefe said afterward. “He has been in the league a long time and he gets calls. It’s unbelievable, really. It’s an art.”

Boston coach Jim Montgomery said he could tell Marchand was going to have a big game in the morning. Three minutes before the team’s skate he was already barking at his teammates.

“I have been around the league a long time,” Montgomery said. “He has always risen in big games. I think there is a burning intensity to win.”

In the best chance of the first period Samsonov stymied Zacha on a 2-on-1.

“Sammy” chants reverberated around the rink.

The Bruins have won their past six series against Toronto, the past three in seven games. The last time Toronto beat Boston in the playoffs gas was 31 cents a gallon, Dwight Eisenhower was the U.S. President and the NHL only had six teams. That was in 1959.

Things heated up in the second period.

After Toronto failed on its third power play, Mitch Marner delivered a pass across the net to Matthew Knies, who flipped it over Jeremy Swayman for a 1-0 lead with 6:50 to go.

The crowd inside the arena celebrated, as did the fans packed in Maple Leaf Square like sardines in a can.

Samsonov made a nice stop on James van Riemsdyk on a 2-on-1. Not long after that Charlie McAvoy tackled Matthews behind the Bruins net like a Patriots linebacker and then Trent Frederic clanked a puck off the post and into net. Suddenly it was 1-1 with 2:23 before the intermission.

Toronto went on a power play a minute later but it was short lived. Bertuzzi got called for time for roughing and the teams finished the period at 4-on-4.

Boston went up quickly in the third when Jake DeBrusk netted a rebound of a shot by Marchand. It was DeBrusk’s third goal of the series. Bertuzzi tied at 2-2 with 8:35 to go, but 28 second later Marchand drilled a shot over Samsonov to give the Bruins the winning margin at 3-2.

Jeremy Swayman, who stopped 35 of 36 shots in Game 1, was back in the visitors’ net. He had 28 saves and has stopped 63 of 66 shots in two games. Swayman is 5-0 against the Maple Leafs during the 2023-2024 campaign.

Samsonov stopped 31 of 34 in the loss.

“We made little mistakes at very important times that ended up in the back of our net,” Keefe said. “At times we played well, but not well enough to win.”

Boston converted two of three power plays and is now 5-of-10 in the series.

“Our special teams were a factor,” Keefe said. “Our power play has to find a way to get one in.”

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