Thursday’s NHL playoffs: Leafs take 1-0 series lead over Bruins

Jimmy Golen
Associated Press
Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Connor Brown (28) knocks over Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) during the first period.

Boston — The Toronto Maple Leafs know they can’t count on short-handed penalty shots to help them get past Boston in the playoffs.

The hustle that forced the Bruins to make mistakes, though: That’s something they are planning to do over and over again.

“It’s a weird play, but we’ll take all goals,” defenseman Jake Muzzin said on Thursday night after Mitch Marner converted Toronto’s first successful postseason penalty shot in two decades to propel the Leafs to a 4-1 victory over Boston.

“You pressure them, and you can force turnovers and fumbled pucks,” Muzzin said after Toronto took Game 1 of the first-round playoff series. “And away you go.”

Marner scored twice — the first to erase a first-period deficit, and the second to give the Leafs the lead for good after he was brought down from behind by Jake DeBrusk on a short-handed breakaway. It was Toronto’s first successful postseason penalty shot since Mats Sundin converted in 1999.

“When you get a power play, you want to get something good out of it and get some momentum,” said Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron, who scored Boston’s only goal. “Obviously, that did the opposite. … That can’t happen.”

Frederik Andersen made 37 saves and William Nylander also scored on a breakaway for Toronto, which swiped the home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven series as it tries to advance through Boston for the first time in six tries.

Game 2 is Saturday night.

“It’s one game, but it gets us a step closer to where we want to get to,” said John Tavares, who added an empty-netter to clinch it. “It’s always good to start that way.”

Tuukka Rask stopped 29 shots for Boston, and Bergeron scored a power-play goal midway through the first on a pass from Brad Marchand. But Marner tied it with about three minutes left in the period, sweeping in a rebound with such force he knocked himself off his skates.

Then, about three minutes into the second with Boston on a power play, Marner flipped the puck ahead toward center ice and chased it down with a clear path to the goal. When he was just outside the crease, DeBrusk was called for bringing him down from behind, and he went crashing into Rask.

DeBrusk crashed hard into the boards and appeared to go to the locker room for attention, but returned to the game.

Marner lined up for the penalty shot, came at Rask from the left side and then slid over to the right faster than the goalie could follow. He pushed the puck into the open net to make it 2-1.

“I put my whole weight on my right foot, and then I just couldn’t get there anymore,” Rask said. “It was a nice move.”

Nazem Kadri sent Nylander off on a breakaway to make it 3-1 with 95 seconds left in the period. Rask came up with a pair of saves in the final minute to keep things from getting out of control, stopping Tavares on a breakaway with 38 seconds left and then a 3-on-1 at the horn.

“We know we’re a fast team in this locker room,” Marner said. “I think we know when we play right, it’s hard to stop us.”

Boston pulled Rask with 2:35 left, but Tavares scored off a center-ice faceoff with 79 seconds left.

More first-round games

►(At) Washington 4, Carolina 2: Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin combined to score three goals on the first eight shots, and the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals survived a surge from Andrei Svechnikov and the Hurricanes to win Game 1 of their first-round series.

Backstrom scored twice and Ovechkin scored on the power play to fire up a raucous sellout crowd in the first playoff game in Washington since celebrating the franchise’s first title in June. Defenseman John Carlson tied an NHL playoff record with three assists in one period. Lars Eller sealed with an empty-netter with 36.6 seconds left.

It looked as though the Capitals would roll toward a statement victory against an opponent lacking playoff experience, but the pesky Hurricanes turned up the heat. Petr Mrazek bounced back from a rough start to make four huge saves early in the third period, while Svechnikov scored twice in his playoff debut to put some fear into the Capitals. Braden Holtby made 27 saves and the penalty kill came up big on two late Carolina power plays to allow Washington to take a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 is Saturday in Washington.

The Hurricanes were playing their first playoff game since 2009 after ending the league’s longest drought.

►(At) Calgary 4, Colorado 0: Matthew Tkachuk scored twice and Mike Smith made 26 saves for his first playoff shutout in nearly seven years, and the Flames blanked the  Avalanche in Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series.

Rookie Andrew Mangiapane and Mikael Backlund also scored as Calgary won its first playoff game since beating Anaheim 4-3 in overtime on May 5, 2015.

The shutout was Smith’s first in the postseason since May 20, 2012, when he made 36 stops while with the Phoenix Coyotes to shut out the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference final. The Coyotes lost the next game and Smith hadn’t played a playoff game since.

A key sequence came early in the second as the Avalanche went to the power play for the third consecutive time. With all the momentum with Colorado, Smith made two key glove stops 30 seconds apart to keep the game scoreless.

First, he made a backhand snag off the stick of Gabriel Landeskog, who was left alone in front. Then, with a little extra flourish afterward, Smith threw out his glove to snag Derrick Brassard’s dangerous snap shot. From that point through the end of the game, chants of “Smitty! Smitty! Smitty!” broke out regularly from the raucous, sold-out, red jersey-clad crowd.

It took until 14:25 of the second period for the game’s first goal – but Mangiapane’s unassisted score was a highlight-reel effort. The sequence began with Garnet Hathaway’s heavy hit on Erik Johnson on the side boards. Mangiapane collected the loose puck and took it to the net where he weaved around Nikita Zadorov and carried the puck across the top of the crease before sending a backhander from his knees past a sprawling Philipp Grubauer.

Hathaway also had an indirect hand in the Flames’ second goal later in the second as he was hauled down while sending a shot off the crossbar to draw a penalty. Calgary converted on the power play at 18:58 to take a 2-0 lead to the second intermission. On the goal, Mark Giordano’s point shot was deflected out of the air by Tkachuk. Called a goal on the ice, Avalanche coach Jared Bednar challenged it, suggesting it was deflected by a high stick, but the goal stood after a lengthy review.

Backlund made it 2 for 4 for Calgary with the extra man when his goal at 17:01 of the third made it 3-0.

Tkachuk sealed it 14 seconds later with an empty-netter off an assist from Smith.