BOSTON — A lot of the talk heading into Game 1 of the Boston Bruins’ first-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs centered around the Leafs’ dangerous power play unit.
Rightfully so, as Toronto had the second-best power play in the NHL during the regular season, scoring on 25 percent of its chances. That trailed only the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But Thursday night’s Game 1 at TD Garden was all about the Bruins’ special teams. Boston scored on its first two power-play opportunities of the night, and the B’s penalty kill gave the Leafs fits all game, killing off all three of Toronto’s attempts. Boston also scored a power-play tally in the third period after Leafs forward Nazem Kadri was ejected for a brutal hit on Tommy Wingels.
While the Bruins ended up with a 5-1 victory, the game hung in the balance in the second period, as the game was knotted at one for much of the second frame.
The Leafs went on two power plays early in the second period, and had a handful of opportunities to take a lead at TD Garden. Toronto had at least three shots skirt the goal line, but the B’s got lucky when one puck slid behind goalie Tuukka Rask but didn’t find the back of the net. Defenseman Adam McQuaid also made a huge stop on a puck at the goal line to keep the game tied during this stretch.
From that point forward, the B’s scored four unanswered goals to take a 1-0 series lead. And they have their special teams to thank for the victory.
“Well, ultimately it was the difference,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game. “But early in the game, I thought our kill was good. We got some breaks around the net, could have either way. You know Adam McQuaid saved one and a couple of good sticks there and Tuukka made a big save. So we got through it. Then our power play, you know, we had a good entry and (Brad Marchand) made a good play with speed on the entry and that’s what you need against this kill. And then (David Krejci) made a good little play and we finished around the net. It was a little bit of the difference, we finished and they didn’t.”
The B’s special teams will need to be just as good, and as lucky Saturday in Game 2.
Here are more notes from Bruins-Leafs Game 1:
— Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen recorded their first playoff action Thursday night.
— David Backes scored a power-play goal in the second period, giving him seven goals and eight assists over his last 18 Stanley Cup playoff games.
— Winger Tommy Wingels left the game in the third period after taking a vicious hit from Nazem Kadri. He is still being evaluated, according to Cassidy.
— Patrice Bergeron recorded an assist in Game 1 to give him 47 points against Toronto since the 2009-10 season, the most of any player. David Krejci (two points in Game 1) has 46 points against the Leafs in that same time frame.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images