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It all comes down to this. After it looked like the Boston Bruins were going to breeze right by an imploding Toronto Maple Leafs team, the blue and white stormed back to take Games 5 and 6.

Now it’s 3-3 in the series, and a trip to the second round is on the line between the rivals as they face off in Game 7 Saturday night in Boston (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN+).

Which players will be most critical to their team’s success? And who wins the game?

Who is the one key player you’ll be watching for the Bruins?

Ryan S. Clark, NHL reporter: Charlie Coyle. Coyle has two assists and zero goals through six games against the Maple Leafs. It’s a bit jarring, considering he scored a career-high 25 goals and 60 points this regular season (both third most on the team). That allowed the Bruins to get by without more established top-six options down the middle.

This also goes back to Jim Montgomery saying he needs more from his stars. Although he was talking mostly about Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, the regular-season numbers Coyle put up mean there are expectations for him as well.

Kristen Shilton, NHL reporter: Jeremy Swayman. That’s assuming Jim Montgomery doesn’t go completely off the deep end and start Linus Ullmark in Game 7. Swayman has been the Bruins’ backbone in this series and their most consistent performer — with the .947 save percentage and 1.60 goals-against average to prove it.

But while Swayman has been excellent in these playoffs — and was great in Boston’s last postseason go-around, too — he has never won an elimination game. That will obviously have to change in Game 7 for the Bruins to advance. Montgomery said earlier in the first round he thought Swayman was in the Leafs’ heads a little bit. Well, now it’s time for Swayman to show that script hasn’t flipped to where Toronto is messing with his mojo.

Greg Wyshynski, NHL reporter: Brad Marchand. These are the moments that define a player’s captaincy. I spoke with Marchand before the season, and no one was more disgusted with Boston squandering its series against the Florida Panthers than he was, feeling that the Bruins cost two of their players — Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci — the “fairy-tale ending” that they deserved.

Marchand didn’t have a point in Game 7 against the Panthers last season. He hasn’t hit the score sheet in the past two losses to the Maple Leafs. He didn’t have a shot on goal in Game 5, and he has six penalty minutes combined in those two losses. He’s the heartbeat of the Bruins. If he’s not a difference-maker in Game 7, it’s another “fairy tale” with “THE END” printed on page one for Boston.

Who is the one key player you’ll be watching for the Maple Leafs?

Clark: Max Domi. What Domi accomplished in the playoffs last year by helping the Stars get to the Western Conference finals showed he can be a key player for a playoff contender. He leads the Maple Leafs in points, and he has looked like one of their better players to this stage.

Three of his four points have been assists, which means he’s able to facilitate play for others. But it also goes back to what he did last year. The 13 points Domi had in 19 playoff games with the Stars is what made him such an attractive option in free agency. Now it’s about seeing whether Domi can continue building his postseason résumé with the sort of performance that can get the Leafs into the second round.

Shilton: Mitch Marner. There’s something about Auston Matthews not being in the Leafs’ lineup — it just brings out the best in Marner. He was sensational for Toronto in Games 5 and 6, revealing a confidence and determination at both ends of the ice that was lacking in his previous playoff performances.

Where Marner could have more of an impact is on the scoresheet. He has just one goal and two assists through the six games, and while Toronto has benefitted in its comeback from contributions outside the core, it would be a boost for both Marner and the Leafs to see him capitalize on those golden opportunities (like when his shot went off the post in Game 6). It feels like Marner is still on the cusp of a breakthrough, production-wise. There’s no time like Game 7 to make that a reality.

Wyshynski: Joseph Woll. Stanley Cup playoff history includes a number of rookie goalies popping off and becoming postseason heroes. I’m not saying Joseph Woll is going to be Ken Dryden or Patrick Roy or even Cam Ward, but he has given the Leafs everything they need in goal right now: a .964 save percentage and an 0.86 goals-against average in his two games since replacing Ilya Samsonov.

The huge goaltending advantage Boston had with Jeremy Swayman has been mitigated. We’ve got some proof of concept now with Woll, as he played well in last season’s playoffs, too. The Leaf-iest thing would be for Woll to melt down and give up three goals in the first 10 minutes in Game 7 on the road. But at this point, I’d be surprised if the rookie goalie costs them the game — and not surprised at all if he’s the reason they win it.

The final score will be _____.

Clark: 4-3 Bruins in OT. How much did the Bruins learn from last year’s first-round exit, and can they avoid a similar fate Saturday? Those are the two major questions they’ll be seeking to answer. One way to answer those questions is by establishing the “big period” like they did in Game 1, when they scored three goals in the second period and again in Game 3 when they scored three in the final frame.

Maybe that happens. Or maybe it’s too late given how they’ve looked in Games 5 and 6. But if the Bruins want to win this game, it’s about trying to find that one period in which they can pump in multiple goals, with those goals coming from different parts of their lineup.

Shilton: 2-1 Leafs. Scoring has been at a premium lately in this series, and given how well Swayman and Woll are playing, Game 7 doesn’t project as a barn burner. Boston was in control, but now the Bruins look lost at times.

Toronto has played with Game 7 levels of urgency twice already, and Boston will have to match that on the fly come Saturday — while grappling with how they went from dominant to docile so quickly. The Bruins have had their chances to close the Leafs out, but Toronto has snatched all the momentum; plus, the Leafs have been a terrific road team all season (and in this series).

Wyshynski: 3-1 Leafs. Bruins coach Jim Montgomery went from calling their first-round disaster last season a teachable moment after Game 5 to declaring that Boston is not living in the past after Game 6. Sorry, but the déjà vu is simply too strong here: 3-1 lead, overtime loss at home, loss on the road, back to Boston for Game 7.

The Bruins look slow. They look ineffective. The Leafs are playing the kind of simple, straight-ahead game the Bruins used to be known for playing: dominating zone time and the face-off circle. I’m not sure Boston can flip the script. The Bruins have lost six straight games with a chance to clinch a playoff series, tied for the seventh-longest streak by any team in NHL history.

We all assumed the pressure of a Game 7 in Boston would crush the Maple Leafs. At this point, is there any question that the Bruins are the ones with the flop sweat?

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Tigers blow 5-run lead, rally with 3-run HR in 9th




Tigers blow 5-run lead, rally with 3-run HR in 9th

DETROIT — Matt Vierling homered twice, including a tiebreaking, three-run drive off Jordan Romano in the ninth inning that gave Detroit a wild 14-11 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday after the Tigers wasted a five-run lead and recovered from a two-run deficit.

Vierling had four hits and tied career highs with two homers and four RBIs.

“My brother and I in the back yard, we’d always be doing situations like that,” Vierling said. “It’s kind of cool when it actually happens.”

Carson Kelly hit a three-run homer and Spencer Torkelson hit a solo shot for Detroit, which led 5-0 after three innings, 8-3 after five and 9-5 after six. The Tigers set a season high for runs and tied their high with 17 hits.

Torkelson had three hits and scored three runs.

“He’s really easy to root for,” Torkelson said of Vierling. “To see him come through, we had all the faith in the world and confidence he’d get the job done there. That’s exactly what he did.”

Toronto’s Isiah Kiner-Falefa homered in the seventh off Tyler Holton, and the Blue Jays took an 11-9 lead with a five-run eighth when Bo Bichette hit a two-run single off Jason Foley and Daulton Varsho hit a three-run homer.

Toronto manager John Schneider drew some consolation by the way his team kept fighting back.

“It’s easy to kind of quit after that and the guys did the exact opposite,” he said. “Chipped away and came back with huge hits from Bo and Varsh.”

Mark Canha tied the score with a two-run single against Yimi Garcia in the bottom half, his third hit.

Vierling, who hit a solo homer in the fifth off Zach Pop, drove a full-count slider from Romano (1-2) over the left-field wall for his first big league walk-off hit. A two-time All-Star, Romano has allowed three homers this year, half his total last season.

“I was ready for that pitch that he threw me 3-2,” Vierling said. “I was kind of looking for it 2-2, as well, but it was low and I was able to check my swing enough. The next pitch was the same pitch, just a little more up.”

Mason Englert (1-0) pitched a hitless ninth for the Tigers (26-27), who won the last three games of a four-game series against the last-place Blue Jays (23-29).

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had his second four-hit game of the season for the Blue Jays.

Detroit starter Casey Mize gave up three runs and eight hits in 4⅓ innings. Toronto’s Yusei Kikuchi allowed five runs and eight hits in three innings. Mize and Kikuchi are 0-3 each in their six starts.

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Braves’ Acuna leaves game with knee soreness




Braves' Acuna leaves game with knee soreness

PITTSBURGH — Ronald Acuna Jr. left the Atlanta Braves8-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first inning Sunday with left knee soreness after his knee appeared to buckle.

The reigning National League MVP led off the game with a double to right-center field off Martin Perez. With Marcell Ozuna at the plate, Acuna started toward third on a stolen base attempt and his left knee appeared to buckle. He remained down for several minutes while being treated, pointing at his left leg before walking off under his own power.

Acuna, a 26-year-old outfielder, is batting .250 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 49 games. The four-time All-Star hit a career-best .337 last season with 41 homers and 106 RBIs.

Adam Duvall shifted from left to right in the bottom half, and Jarred Kelenic entered the game in place of Acuna and played left.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Royals’ Massey again on IL with low back injury




Royals' Massey again on IL with low back injury

The Kansas City Royals placed second baseman Michael Massey on the 10-day injured list Sunday because of a low back ligament sprain.

In a corresponding move, the Royals recalled shortstop Nick Loftin from Triple-A Omaha.

Massey homered in the fifth inning of the Royals’ 8-1 victory over the host Tampa Bay Rays on Friday. He exited the game in the next inning and did not play Saturday.

He also missed the start of the season with a lower back strain.

“It’s more of the same, what he has been dealing with since the spring, just some tightness,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “We’re going to have to take his lead on it and manage it. He’s feeling better, moving around and exercising, but we’re going to have to manage it day to day.”

Massey, 26, is hitting .294 with six home runs and 23 RBIs in 29 games. He has a .306 on-base percentage, .529 slugging percentage and .835 OPS.

Loftin hit .276 (8-for-29) in 13 games with Kansas City this season. He is batting .308 (28-for-91) in 32 career games.

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