When Boston beat Toronto in seven games last year, it didn’t see this Mitch Marner. The Bruins didn’t have to deal with the 21-year-old winger that developed into one of the league’s best forwards playing next to John Tavares—the one that led the dynamic Leafs offense in points with 94. Boston struck first but Marner struck twice: first, on a lunging shot after a Jake Muzzin shot was deflected and careened off the post and, second on the penalty shot when Marner flashed his smooth hands, drew the puck backhand and forehand multiple times in tight space and deked past Tuukka Rask. That was enough give the Leafs a 4–1 victory and momentarily halt any recurring playoff nightmares.
The ghost of playoffs past haunted Boston with non-existent secondary scoring in Game 1. The Lightning unraveled the Bruins last year in the second round, preventing their bottom six from registering a single point, and that issue won’t go away if Frederik Andersen plays at the caliber that originally placed him in the Vezina conversation. The 29-year-old goaltender turned in a staunch 37-save effort, only surrendering a power-play goal to a wide-open Patrice Bergeron.
And while the Bruins sort out their issues before Game 2, there are other Leafs to deal with, too. Nazem Kadri beamed a 60-foot cross ice pass to a streaking William Nylander, who entered the Bruins’ zone untouched and beat Rask five-hole. Even more surprising for a unit in disarray, Toronto’s defense provided a mostly clean effort on the back end. Yes, it’s just one game, but tonight was a far cry from Boston’s 5–1 drubbing of the Leafs to open last year’s playoffs.
Whispers: And just wait for Auston Matthews to get going.
CAPITALS 4, HURRICANES 2
Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik laid a huge hit on Andrei Svechnikov along the left boards—and that was just one of 24 hits in the game’s first 10 minutes. Nicklas Backstrom broke through the brutish play and scored twice, once with a snipe over Petr Mrazek’s right shoulder and another on the power play three minutes later. For good measure, Alex Ovechkin capped the first-period torrent of goals with his first of the postseason on the power play. Svechnikov gave the Hurricanes life in the third period when he drove past John Carlson and beat Braden Holtby, and then doubled up and scored again in just over two minutes. Carolina failed to convert on a power play with 3:31 to go, generously gifted by T.J. Oshie, and the defending Stanley Cup champions held on to survive a Game 1 scare.
FLAMES 4, AVALANCHE 0
Leave it to veteran goaltender Mike Smith to put on a show in the Mikko Rantanen–Nathan MacKinnon–Gabriel Landeskog line’s first game back in over a month. That’s exactly what he did—sprawling butterfly saves, heart-stopping puck handling and all—to shut out the Avalanche’s top line in a 26-save victory. Smith stifled Colorado long enough for Andrew Mangiapane to give Calgary a 1–0 lead late in the second period. Greeted by cross-checks and face washes all game long, Matthew Tkachuk tacked on two goals and became the fourth multi-goal scorer across Thursday night’s playoff games. Love him or hate him, Tkachuk is one third of Calgary’s “3M” line that frustrated the Avs’ top trio and has dominated opponents throughout the season. The Flames won over 65% of the game’s faceoffs and vexed Colorado, all without delivering a true offensive onslaught.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
Marner doesn’t even start his stickhandling flurry until he’s about a foot away from the crease. Once he does, he freezes Rask, gets him to bite going left and slides the puck into the net. Marner earned the penalty shot after Jake DeBrusk tripped him on a shorthanded breakaway.
1. Mitch Marner, TOR — It took only one game for Marner to match last postseason’s goal total (two) against the Bruins. Skating alongside Tavares has amplified Marner’s playmaking ability while also keeping attention away from the young winger. It’s the best of both worlds for Marner, who is poised for a massive contract as a restricted free agent this offseason. Scoring his first career multi-goal game in the playoffs, Marner proved tonight why he’s worth that type of money.
2. Frederik Andersen, TOR — Andersen stopped 37 of 38 shots in the Leafs’ first Game 1 victory in 16 years. Unbeaten at even-strength, the performance should be a confidence booster for Andersen after his played tailed off at the end of the season.
3. Mike Smith, CGY — No one can second guess Bill Peter’s decision to go with Smith now. Flames fans witnessed shades of the 37-year-old veteran’s Western Conference Final run with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2012. Smith was making saves falling over, splayed out, however which way and his glove was a steel bear trap all night long. Thursday night’s shutout is the fourth of his postseason career.