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.
NOTES: The Leafs have only been awarded four postseason penalty shots, and the only other time they have scored was Sundin against Buffalo on May 29, 1999. … The Bruins have given up six postseason penalty shots, just two of them successful. The last attempt was by Philadelphia’s Ville Leino in 2010. … The Bruins outshot Toronto 21-14 in the second period, but gave up two goals. … Muzzin, a trade deadline acquisition who missed the final regular-season game with an illness, assisted on Marner’s first goal.
Game 2 is Saturday night in Boston before the series moves to Toronto for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday.