Marner turns over a new Leaf
Toronto forward nets a pair in 4-1 win over Boston Mitch Marner was a man on a mission, Thursday night.
The Maple Leafs sniper netted a pair of goals, including the eventual game-winner off a penalty shot, as Toronto edged the Boston Bruins, 4-1, in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, April 11 at TD Garden.
With the victory, the Leafs take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“That’s a great win for us,” said Marner. “We played very well as a team, but we’re going to need to keep it going throughout the series, the games are just going to get harder and harder. As a team we just got to make sure we come to play every night. “
Trailing early in the first period, Marner spearheaded Toronto’s comeback potting the-game-tying tally off a John Taveras rebound at 16:44.
The veteran forward was just getting started. Pressing on the penalty kill in the second stanza, Marner managed to break free of the Bruins defense forcing forward Jake DeBrusk to haul him down on the breakaway. The 6-foot, 175-pound right winger made Boston pay on the ensuing penalty shot snapping a forehander past goaltender Tuukka Rask for the shorthanded goal.
“I had an idea of what I wanted to do,” Marner said. “Last second I kind of just switched it up just seeing where he was and seeing his position, from then on luckily enough I got him and put it in.”
According to Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy, Marner has game-breaking stuff.
“He’s an elite player in the league at a young age,” said Cassidy, recalling years earlier when people would question why no one ever hit Wayne Gretzky.
“Well, it’s not that easy, right?” Cassidy said. “So, I think it becomes containment issues, play him hard, play him honest one-on-one, put him where you want him to go. Obviously, if you can be physical against him, do it, but he competed to score the first goal getting to the net. We were a little late in our coverage. I think we gifted him a little in the shorty, but good for him for being smart and jumping us. That’s on us, mishandled the puck. That shouldn’t beat us. We had plenty of time to get back in the game, but he’s a good player. He’s played well against us, and obviously we need to find an answer to him.”
The Bruins wasted little time getting on the scoreboard. Patrice Bergeron cashed in on the powerplay off some nifty passing from Tory Krug and Brad Marchand giving them the 1-0 lead just 9:31 into the contest.
But Toronto did a masterful job limiting Boston’s top line from doing any further damage the rest of the way.
“We just wanted to stay above them all night,” said Marner. “We wanted to make it hard on them to get to our line and get it in. [Jake] Muzzin and [Nikita] Zaitsev did a great job as well, stopped them at the line a lot of times, stopped their rushes.”
Holding the 2-1 lead, the Leafs continued to press with several glittering opportunities in the second period.
Nazem Kadri set up Michal Nylander off a brilliant cross ice feed, scoring the insurance marker with 18:25 left in the period.
Tavares iced the contest late in the third period netting the empty-net goal giving sealing the 4-1 victory.
According to Cassidy, the Bruins ran into problems with puck handling and puck management, which proved to be a lethal combination.
“Some of it’s certainly operator error,” Cassidy said. “In the back, we have some younger guys that are still sorting their ways through playoffs. Obviously, two guys are playing in their first game. Grizz [Matt Grzelcyk] and Charlie [McAvoy] haven’t been around that long, so there could have been some nerves. I think there was clearly for Brandon [Carlo] early.”
“We knew that would happen,” he added. “That’s fine. Play through it. Other guys tried to force it a little bit. Maybe turn down some opportunities to make an easier play, especially in the offensive end of it, offensive blue line, opportunity on the two-on-one we had with Grizz. Next thing you know it’s in our net, so some of that hopefully they’ve learned that you have to make a quicker decision with it, and that’s, again, individual based and how Toronto, how they play. They’ve got a fast team, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. Clearly on us to get that message across better Saturday.”
Bergeron and the Bruins will look to bounce back this weekend.
“I think win or lose, you take the time to think about that game tonight but then tomorrow it’s back at it and moving forward,” said Bergeron. “No one said it was going to be an easy series. Obviously, you want to have a better start than we did tonight, but that being said, it’s on to Game 2.”
Boston will faceoff with Toronto in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Saturday, April 13 at TD Garden. Puck drop is set for 8 p.m.