- The Boston Bruins pounded the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1, while the Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks all took home Game 1 wins.
When the Toronto Maple Leafs broke through to clinch their first playoff berth since 2012–13 last year, the rest of the NHL paid special attention to their opening-round matchup with the Washington Capitals, eager to measure the progress made by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and the other budding stars at the center of the Toronto rebuild. Washington took that series in six games, but all six were decided by one goal (five needed overtime) and defined by both sides trading haymakers as the momentum swung wildly back and forth. In short, it was a fun ride for the Leafs fans who acknowledged that this level of competitiveness was at least a year ahead of schedule.
If Game 1 in Boston sets the tone for the rest of the series, this year’s playoffs are going to be considerably less fun in Toronto. The Boston Bruins grounded down the Leafs after the teams sat on even terms through one period, getting two quick tallies in the final five minutes of the second and cruising to a 5–1 win that showcased the relentless, complete game that made Boston an opponent few teams wanted to catch early in the bracket.
Brad Marchand opened the scoring with a deft backhand, but the three goals that put the game out of reach could all be attributed to the toughness of Boston forwards in tight areas. David Backes outmuscled Toronto defenseman Ron Hainsey for a 50-50 puck to pot the eventual game-winner; then Marchand and Patrice Bergeron put on a puck-possession clinic below the goal line to set up a David Pastrnak snipe; then Pastrnak’s kamikaze net drive cleared the way for Sean Kuraly to tap home the Bruins’ fourth tally with a swinging bunt.
The loss left the Leafs searching for their composure and potentially searching for a Game 2 replacement for forward Nazem Kadri, who earned a game misconduct when he charged a prone Tommy Wingels along the boards in the third with the outcome no longer in doubt at 4–1 with 11:42 left. And yes, that score line carries no small amount of significance in the recent history of this rivalry, but the Bruins had eliminated all doubt before David Krejci capitalized with a final goal on the ensuing power play.
Blue Jackets 4, Capitals 3 (OT)
The Washington Capitals became the first team to lose at home this postseason and in the process received a painful reminder of how hard their first-round foe will be to put away. The Columbus Blue Jackets trailed 2–0 after the first period but pulled level with a pair of tip-ins from Alexander Wennberg and Thomas Vanek. Devante Smith-Pelly appeared to grab momentum back by depositing a perfect pass from Jakub Vrana, but with just over five minutes left in regulation Andre Burakovsky committed a knuckleheaded tripping penalty below his own offensive blue line, and less than a minute later Seth Jones beat Philipp Grubauer with a walk-in wrister to force overtime.
Artemi Panarin’s work of mastery for the game-winner—he blew past defenseman Dmitry Orlov at breakneck speed and tucked the puck into the far top corner over Grubauer’s shoulder at 6:02 of the extra session—has earned Columbus a playoff series lead for the first time in franchise history. (But the win didn’t come without a price: Wennberg left the game after taking a high hit, and Boone Jenner and Nick Foligno both paid steep prices for blocked shots.) Alex Prewitt broke down the resilience of the Blue Jackets.
Lightning 5, Devils 2
The forward line of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Brayden Point set the tone for the Eastern Conference’s top seed, accounting for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s first three goals to put the New Jersey Devils in an insurmountable hole. As he did during his Hart Trophy-caliber regular season, Taylor Hall dragged the Devils into contention, capitalizing on a Lightning turnover for New Jersey’s first goal and feeding Travis Zajac for the second, but Alex Killorn rung home a wrist shot in transition to kill the comeback bid.
Predators 5, Avalanche 2
The Presidents' Trophy winners got a minor scare from a fast, fearless Avalanche team that led after one period, but they pulled away in the third thanks to two polar opposite Filip Forsberg goals: one greasy redirect out in front, one flashy dangle to torch the last defender remaining before beating goalie Jonathan Bernier. If the back-and-forth scoring in the middle frame (and the chirping that ensued when things got out of hand late) is any indication, Colorado has no intention of backing down in the face of the popular opinion that it’s the weakest team in the field.
Sharks 3, Ducks 0
Martin Jones earned 2018’s third playoff shutout in two nights as the San Jose Sharks promptly spoiled the Anaheim Ducks' home-ice advantage after ceding second place in the Pacific to their in-state rivals on the final day of the season. Playing in his first career playoff game after being shipped from Buffalo to San Jose at the trade deadline, Evander Kane made the Ducks pay for leaving him unmarked in the slot to open the scoring in the second period, then slid home another goal less than seven minutes later.
Highlight of the Night
Spring weather has been slow in arriving around New England, but Brad Marchand didn’t want to waste a moment of the season of love, taking advantage of his first chance to rekindle his cozy relationship with his counterpart pest Leo Komarov.
How did Marchand explain himself after the game?
Brad Marchand on nuzzling with Leo Komarov in front of the benches in Game 1: "I thought he wanted to cuddle, so I was just trying to get close to him."— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) April 13, 2018
1. Artemi Panarin, CBJ — You score the first OT winner of the playoffs in highlight-reel fashion, you get the first star. That’s just the way this works. After a quiet showing in Chicago’s quick first-round exit last spring, the Blue Jackets’ leading scorer did not shrink from the moment.
2. Ondrej Palat, TB — Palat’s three-point night (one goal, two primary assists) did the Devils in on its own.
3. Evander Kane, SJS — Not bad for a rental: Kane now has 11 goals in 18 games as a Shark. He helped take the cover off the goalmouth after San Jose spoiled a few chances in the first 25 minutes.
With one game of data, it feels safe to conclude that the Pittsburgh Penguins are once again playing for keeps. Of all the statements made in the first two days of playoff action, none was louder than Pittsburgh’s 7–0 drubbing of Philadelphia. How will the Flyers respond after getting pantsed by their in-state rivals in Game 1? If Philly captain Claude Giroux summons up those occasional world-beating individual performances he’s known for on command, Friday night would be an opportune time to play that card.
That electric home-ice advantage finally paid off for the Winnipeg Jets, as they secured their franchise’s first playoff win in nine tries. The Minnesota Wild must find a way to contain Patrik Laine’s brilliance to mere flashes, or else Bruce Boudreau’s bunch will be in a daunting 2–0 hole.
The Los Angeles Kings looked lost in the neon signs their first night in Vegas, as the Golden Knights dictated the pace for virtually all 60 minutes but could only beat Jonathan Quick once. This isn’t the first time Los Angeles has needed a game or two to lurch into gear offensively around playoff time, but the margin for error has now vanished. Who will allow a goal first in these playoffs: Matt Murray or Marc-Andre Fleury?