May 2, 2013

Early deficit didn't deflate Bruins in Game 1

By Jesse Connolly

James van Riemsdyk (21) scored a power-play goal in the opening minutes of Game 1 for the Leafs. (Getty Images)

While it’d be a stretch to say literally nothing has gone right for the Boston Bruins over the past calendar month, the truth isn’t too far short of that. Their decidedly poor finish to the regular season – a 2-5-2 run to close out the year with their only victories coming against the cellar dwellers of the conference – left many feeling bleak about their chances in the 2013 playoffs.

But with the start of the second season officially upon us on Wednesday night, the slate wiped clean, the rocky, regular-season conclusion now in the rearview mirror, hope felt renewed.

Unfortunately said hope was temporarily dashed at the 1:54 mark of Game 1, when James van Riemsdyk scored a power-play goal to give the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead and the fans on hand a TD Garden as good a reason as any to slump in their chairs, put their heads in their hands and ponder just what kind of misery they might be in for.

“We talked a lot about turning the page on how the season ended and the way we were playing the last 10 games. Them getting that first goal on the power play, 15 seconds into the power play, kind of sucked the life out of the crowd,” Bruins winger Milan Lucic said, “but we knew that we at least needed to score one goal to win the game and we stayed focused.”

Asked what being scored on so early does for a team’s emotions after being so amped up for the start of the playoffs, defenseman Andrew Ference said the B’s didn’t get rattled.

“You know, it’s a power play and they definitely converted. They did a good job and they earned it,” said Ference. “You just have to go get the next shift and turn the page. You’re going to get scored on in the playoffs. There’s going to be chances, there’s going to be mistakes, there’s going to be goals.

“You just deal with it and move on. The onus is on the next guys that go out there to do a good job.”

The Bruins responded by outshooting the Leafs 15-5 over the final 18:06 of play in the opening frame.

With 3:40 to go in the first period, Wade Redden slapped home a feed from fourth-line center Greg Campbell to tie things up. Redden sparking the offense again in the closing seconds of the frame with a shot that got redirected by Nathan Horton past James Reimer, giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead.

Suddenly, things looked infinitely better than they had just 18 minutes of hockey ago.

“It’s good,” Ference said of the Bruins turning things around so quickly, “but sometimes it’s going to take 55 more minutes. It’s definitely nice just to have the building get excited like that so early and to respond. You just do all you can to try to get something going. Sometimes it takes longer, sometimes it’s quick like that.”

After falling behind right out of the gate, the Bruins not only dominated the remainder of the first period. They completely owned the Leafs for the rest of the night, outshooting them 40-20 in an eventual 4-1 victory.

Given the Bruins’ late-season slump and lackluster play down the stretch, van Riemsdyk’s goal looked like it could’ve been the rock that started the avalanche. Instead, it proved to be nothing more than a footnote in a long-awaited, slump-busting, 60-minute effort for a Boston team that looked a lot more like the squad that started the year 14-2-2 than the one that limped to the finish line.

“Even after Toronto scored the first goal, I really felt that our team was still in good shape and had lots of time,” coach Claude Julien said. “We just had to stick to the game plan. You get that [good] feeling sometimes and our players were really focused tonight.”

The B’s and Leafs will take to the ice for Game 2 at TD Garden at 7 o’clock Saturday night.

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ