For the Boston Bruins, Thursday night’s Game 1 in the quarter finals in the Eastern Conference against the Toronto Maple Leafs was a must win situation. It wasn’t because they were down three games. Instead it was a need to set a tone within their locker room, having lost four of their final five games of the regular season. The Bruins had made a nasty habit out of giving up the first goal, often on the first shot by the opposition. They needed to hit the ice on time and play a full sixty minutes.
The Bruins played strong and hard the first ten minutes of the opening period and when Brad Marchand put Boston on the scoreboard during the power play just 5:28 into the game, it was certainly a momentum boost for the team in black and gold. Of course, there was still a lot of hockey left and as the period continued, it was clear that Toronto wasn’t going to back down. With 3:08 remaining on the clock, Zach Hyman got a backhand shot on Tuukka Rask to tie things up going into the first intermission.
The momentum looked like it would swing a bit toward the visitors when Zdeno Chara got a holding the stick penalty, drawn by Hyman, just 59 seconds into the second period. A strong penalty kill by Boston kept things tied. Five minutes later the Bruins were again on the kill, this time the result of a slashing call on Danton Heinen. Once again, the penalty killers came up big for Boston.
As the period continued, there were hits from both sides, and everyone was finishing their checks. And as the clock ticked under five minutes remaining in the middle frame, it looked like things might remain knotted going into the third. However, a hooking penalty on Patrick Marleau gave the Bruins their second power play opportunity of the game, and like the first, they made it count—this time off the stick of David Backes—with 16 seconds remaining on the man advantage. David Pastrnak, just above the right circle, would get a wrist shot past Frederik Andersen with just 38 seconds left in the period to put the Bruins up 3-1 going into the second intermission.
The third period picked up right where things left off in the second—physicality on physicality. Toronto would get whistled for a too many men penalty, which is never an easy penalty to take, but would deny the Bruins any satisfaction during that power play. Three minutes later, Nazem Kadri would go off for boarding Tommy Wingels, forcing the Maple Leafs to stand tall on yet another penalty kill.
Approximately thirty seconds after Kadri’s penalty ended, Sean Kuraly would get the Bruins their fourth goal of the game. The tip in had people wondering if Kuraly had played baseball as a kid, because it almost looked like a bunt.
On what appeared to be Kadri’s very next shift, he would once again be whistled for a penalty, this time a charging against Wingels. Wingels would go down the tunnel not to return to the game and Kadri would find himself assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct, which sent him down the visitor’s tunnel. While on the power play, Krejci would get the Bruins their third power play goal of the game, giving Boston a four-goal lead, which sealed the results on the night.
“They took a major, so that obviously forces you on the kill and expend a lot of energy defending as opposed to scoring. So, when you’re behind, that’s a problem. But, early in the game, I thought our kill was good. We got some breaks around the net,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game. “Looked like there were some pucks there that could have went either way. I know Adam McQuaid saved one and a couple of good sticks there, and Tuukka [Rask] some big saves. So, we got through it. Then our power play, we had a good entry and Marchy made a good play. We had a lot of speed on the entry and that’s what you need against this kill. Then Krech [David Krejci] made a good low play and we finished around the net. That can be a little bit of a difference; we finished one, they didn’t. So, it goes the other way, you don’t know how the end is going to be, but from there I thought we were a good team, played the right way, and we were able to bring it home.”
Special teams, especially the Bruins power play, were the major reason the ice tilted so much in their favor. They went three for six on the power play Thursday night. On the other side, the Maple Leafs failed to capitalize on any of their three opportunities with the man advantage.
The teams will be back at it for Game 2 on Saturday night at 8:00 pm, and by then the Leafs will know if Kadri will be playing or watching the game, as he has an interview with Player Safety on Friday. The key for Saturday’s game for the Bruins though will be to remain physical without stepping over the line.