BOSTON – Sean Kuraly isn’t so good at waiting.
The Boston Bruins forward is usually going full-speed on the ice, whether it’s chasing the puck on the forecheck or sizing up an opponent for a hit. So when he saw David Pastrnak’s shot hit off the post and flutter into the air, it was tough for Kuraly to be patient.
“A play like that doesn’t come around very often. When it does, it’s kind of a waiting game,” he said on Thursday night after bunting the puck into the net to help the Bruins beat Toronto 5-1 in the opener of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.
“It’s not really my style,” said Kuraly, who had to resist hitting the puck before it fell below the level of the crossbar to avoid being called for a high stick. “To go from 100 mph and hitting everything that moves and (wait) in front of the net, it can be a challenge.”
Brad Marchand, David Backes and David Krejci each scored a power-play goal, and Tuukka Rask stopped 26 shots for Boston. Pastrnak scored to make it 3-1 with 38 seconds left in the second period, then moved in on goalie Frederik Andersen seven minutes into the third before backhanding the puck off the post.
Kuraly waited, and then two-handed the puck off the shaft of his stick like a bunt as he fell over the sprawling goalie.
“I’m a terrible baseball player,” he said. “It has nothing to do with baseball.”
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is back at the TD Garden on Saturday night.
“We’ve got a day to solve our problems,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “We could feel sorry for ourselves if we want tonight, but that’s a waste of time and energy.”
Boston already scored two power-play goals when Toronto’s Nazem Kadri was thrown out of the game and given a five-minute major for an elbow to Tommy Wingels’ head. Three-minutes later, Krejci bounced it in off Andersen from behind to make it 5-1.
“I thought it was the appropriate call,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Where it goes from here is out of my hands.”
Zach Hyman scored Toronto’s only goal, and Andersen made 35 saves.
“They cranked it up, and we didn’t answer,” defenseman Ron Hainsey said.
The matchup is the first in the postseason for the teams since Toronto’s Game 7 collapse in the first round in 2013, when Boston rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the third period, scoring twice in the last 82 seconds of regulation to send it into overtime. The Bruins went on to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Maple Leafs never had a lead to blow in this one.
And the Boston power play was the reason.
“Obviously, our penalty kill wasn’t good enough,” Babcock said. “We took too many penalties in the third, and the third was no contest.”
With James Van Riemsdyk off for hooking, Marchand scored on a backhander to give the Bruins the lead 5:28 into the game. Hyman tied it for the Leafs with about three minutes before the break but Backes put Boston back in front early in the second on a pass from Krejci.
Pastrnak converted a pass from Marchand with 38 seconds left in the period to make it 3-1, and then set up the next goal when he moved in on Andersen and bounced it off the post. As the puck fluttered in the air over the sprawled goalie, Kuraly came in trailing the play and knocked it into the net.
NOTES: Pastrnak and Torey Krug had two assists apiece. … Toronto was 0-for-3 on the power play. Boston was 3-for-6. … The teams came into the game 34-34-1 in their first 69 playoff matchups, but the Maple Leafs hold an 8-6 series edge. … The Bruins pledged the profits of their 50/50 raffle – at least $50,000 – to support the victims of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus crash.
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