Bruins-Maple Leafs officially a series

Perhaps you forgot since the Bruins rolled so easily, 4-1, in Game 1 on Wednesday, but the Maple Leafs are in the postseason for a reason, they are a quality team too.

Toronto showed up in a big way on Saturday night at TD Garden for Game 2 and earned a satisfying 4-2 road win to even the series 1-1. This was the Maple Leafs’ first playoff victory since April 30, 2004 so it obviously held extra meaning to the Original 6 franchise. Game 3 is Monday (7 p.m., NESN) at Air Canada Centre, which should have a great atmosphere.

“They played much better than they had in Game 1 and our execution wasn’t as good,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “We were prepared for some of their adjustments but we gave up a bunch of outnumbered situations defensively.”

Boston actually scored the first goal as Nathan Horton drove to the net early in the second period and was rewarded when a rebound went in (unintentionally) off his skate. Toronto responded with a pair of goals from Joffrey Lupul to take a 2-1 lead after two periods and then Phil Kessel, of all people, had the game-winner on a breakaway 53 seconds into the third period after Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk got caught up ice.

The B’s made it interesting for a few minutes as Boychuk scored his second goal in as many games but the Leafs iced it with James van Riemsdyk’s second goal of the series. This was a win that Toronto deserved; it beat Boston at its own game (outhitting them 44-35) at TD Garden, a task not easy to accomplish. With Andrew Ference suspended for Game 2, Zdeno Chara and Seidenberg, Boston’s go-to shutdown defensive pairing, was broken up with mixed results. Chara (plus-2) played with McQuaid (plus-1) and Seidenberg (minus-3) was with Boychuk (minus-1). Rookie Dougie Hamilton appeared in his first career NHL playoff game, with Wade Redden on the third line. Expect the defensive pairings to go back to what they were in Game 1 for Game 3. Hamilton wasn’t bad, but the B’s need to keep McQuaid’s toughness (and righthanded shot) in the lineup.

“Some of our old (bad) habits started creeping in,” said Bruins winger Tyler Seguin. “We’ll need to correct those in Game 3; they’re a good team, we expected them to play better. They won more battles which was something we controlled in the first game.”

There is no need to panic yet for Bruins fans, you have to remember that Boston is the four seed and Toronto is the fifth seed so very little separated these teams coming into the playoffs. Furthermore, being at home means less in hockey than any of the other three major North American sports. With that said, Game 3 is pivotal for both teams since the Bruins are already guaranteed that they’ll be coming back to TD Garden for Game 5. Anything can happen the longer a series goes as last spring’s Bruins’ series loss in seven games to the Capitals proved.

Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate


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