By DAVID SHOALTS
Friday, April 13, 2018
BOSTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs survived losing all of the puck battles, at first, but they could not survive getting whipped on special teams.
In addition to dominating the Leafs in every area of the game, the Boston Bruins scored two power-play goals in two opportunities and squelched the Leafs power-play three out of three times to earn a 5-1 win on Thursday night. It may have been just the opening game in their firstround NHL playoff series but there is no question the Bruins set the tone they wanted.
"I will say this: You can go over the years, Game 1s, sometimes the winner of the game doesn't win the series and vice versa," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "But it is an opportunity to establish the way you want to play, dictate the pace and your style of play. That's how we're looking at it. At the end of the day, we want to win the hockey game, obviously. That's it in a nutshell. Whatever happens we'll move onto Game 2."
The Bruins also went home with a grudge for the next game.
Leafs centre Nazem Kadri was ejected from the game late in the third period when he drove Boston forward Tommy Wingels into the boards. Kadri received a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct while Wingels had to be helped to his feet. Kadri could be suspended for the Wingels hit.
David Krejci scored during the Kadri power play to make it 5-1 Bruins.
The Maple Leafs said all week they expected the Bruins to come out hard. They also expected a heightened, intense atmosphere at the TD Garden, with 18,000 Bostonians projecting their hatred in a vocal onslaught. Oh yeah, bring it on, they said.
"I love going into buildings that boo you, are electric and hostile," Kadri said after the morning skate. "That just pumps me up and I'm sure I speak for a lot of other guys."
Maybe not, Mr. Kadri.
The Bruins, led by the Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak line as expected, came out strong and hard. For the first 15 minutes of the game they scarcely allowed the Leafs to draw a breath. Marchand and Bergeron put on a clinic in playoff hockey - winning every fight for the puck and keeping it in the Leafs zone almost all of the time.
Cassidy said he would make sure Bergeron's line played a lot against the Leafs' top line of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Zach Hyman. That's how the coach handled it for the most part, although the Bruins' big unit dominated every line they played against.
By the five-minute mark, the Leafs looked dazed. During the regular season, the Leafs were masters at finding the open spots on the ice and getting the puck to them. On this night, there were no open spaces, just black-and-gold sweaters knocking them flat.
During yet another dominant Bruins shift, this time by Krejci's second line, Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk took a hooking penalty in his own end at 5:04.
Twenty-four seconds later, the puck was in the net with Marchand wheeling behind lumbering Leafs defenceman Roman Polak for the goal after taking a nifty pass from defenceman Torey Krug.
And so it went for the next 10 minutes with the Bruins alternately wheeling and hitting the helpless Leafs. As the midway point of the period approached, the Bruins held a 14-1 edge in shot attempts. The Leafs did not have even one shot on goal during fiveon-five play and were fortunate to be down only one goal.
But as the first period wound down, the Leafs earned themselves a respite with another of their characteristics in the regular season - the ability to capitalize on the opposition's mistakes. The Bruins finally showed a crack in that regard when a bad clearing attempt wound up on Leaf defenceman Jake Gardiner's stick with about six minutes to go. His slapshot bounced off the post but it was a sign of life from the Leafs.
A few seconds later, Leafs winger Hyman threw his team a lifeline with a fabulous playoff-style goal. He chased down a loose puck, shrugged off Krejci in the fight for it, then warded off an attempted stick check by Boston defenceman Charlie McAvoy and beat goaltender Tuukka Rask on a deke.
It was just the sort of goal teams need to get traction in the playoffs - one of the worker bees coming through when the stars are shut down. The Leafs visibly shook off the pianos on their backs and started controlling the puck a little more.
When the Bruins did not come out with the same fire in the second period as they did in the first, it seemed the Leafs might be able to assert themselves. But then that special-teams bogeyman came to call.
In the first seven minutes, the Leafs were given two power plays.
Both times they were decent enough in possession terms but failed to generate much in the way of scoring chances. Then Leafs forward Patrick Marleau took a hooking penalty at 13:59 during one of the frequent nasty periods of the game.
The Bruins pounced on the Leafs immediately and David Backes made it two power-play goals in as many opportunities at 15:43 by out-fighting Leafs defenceman Ron Hainsey for a rebound.
Then the Leafs fell into a deep hole with 38 seconds left in the second period when Cassidy again caught them in a bad matchup. He got the Bergeron line out against fourth-line centre Tomas Plekanec and winger Kasperi Kapanen. They had Matthews with them but the Bruins easily cycled the puck with Pastrnak finishing for a 3-1 lead.
Any chance for momentum to start the third period was lost when Leaf forwards Mitch Marner and Kadri took penalties in the first five minutes. When Bruins forward Sean Kuraly knocked in a rebound with 12 minutes left, that was it.
Boston Bruins left winger Rick Nash and Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Nikita Zaitsev crash along the boards during the first period of Game 1 in Boston on Thursday.
ELISE AMENDOLA/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS