You knew the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to come back in Game 2 of their playoff series against the Boston Bruins a better team. However, When Tyler Seguin came rushing in with a strong scoring chance right off the opening faceoff, it looked like deja vu from Game 1.
But, unlike Wednesday night, the Leafs responded with a dominating shift of their own. They played a strong first period and were definitely the better team.
With Andrew Ference out serving a suspension for an alleged head shot, rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton stepped in to the lineup for the B's in his first career NHL playoff game. This meant the separation of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, which meant Chara was paired with Adam McQuaid and Seidenberg played alongside Johnny Boychuk.
The separated duo struggled throughout the game, especially Seidenberg. The mighty German was caught up the ice several times, leading to odd-man rushes for Toronto. He was careless with the puck and overpowered, which is un-Seidenberg like.
Matt Frattin, who was inserted into the lineup for Game 2, took a great pass from Dion Phaneuf in the Leafs' zone and led a great rush through the neutral zone. He took it right to Seidenberg all the way to the Bruins' goal line to Tuukka Rask's left.
Frattin passed the puck to Joffrey Lupul, who was crashing the net and was able to put a slick backhander past Rask to give the Leafs the 2-1 lead. Lupul had a two-goal night, was second among Leafs forwards in ice time at 22:22 and received the game's First Star of the night.
Seidenberg was burned by none other than Phil Kessel less than a minute into the third period after he took a shot that rebounded to Ryan Hamilton, who then tipped it to Nazem Kadri. Kadri then fed it perfectly to a streaking Kessel. The former Bruin tucked the puck past Rask for his first even-strength goal against the Boston Bruins in his career.
Kessel's goal sucked the life out of the TD Garden, and the Leafs seemed poised for a series-tying victory in Boston.
However, Johnny Boychuk had something to say about that when he shot the puck toward the slot and it went in the net off battling Tylers (Bozak and Seguin). The Patrice Bergeron line had a strong shift in the Leafs' zone, and with Seguin crashing the net their work paid off and gave the Bruins some momentum halfway through the third, still trailing 3-2.
However, Toronto wouldn't back down, and for every hit the Bruins would deliver, someone would answer.
After Daniel Paille hit Frattin, Dion Phaneuf came back seconds later with a high hit on Paille. Phaneuf wasn't penalized on the play, but he clearly went for Paille's head and was successful in his attempt. If the NHL and Brendan Shanahan are consistent and fair with their rulings, Phaneuf will have a telephone call from the league and a suspension just like the Bruins' Andrew Ference and Eric Gryba of the Ottawa Senators did.
The Bruins' hopes for a comeback came to an end when James van Riemsdyk tied the game after a tremendous rush by Mikhail Grabovski that left Seidenberg (who was on the ice with Redden at the time) out of position. Van Riemsdyk snuck behind Seidenberg, spun around in front of Rask and while falling squeezed the puck just past Rask's right leg, giving the Leafs the 4-2 lead with just over three minutes to play.
Toronto held on for the win and tied the series 1-1 with the Bruins. They did what they needed to and took a game in Boston, giving them home-ice advantage in the series as they head home to Toronto for Monday's Game 3.
While you cannot take anything away from what Toronto accomplished as they were clearly the better team Saturday night, the Bruins' defensemen have to be better...much better. In particular, their best defensemen Chara and Seidenberg, who played poorly.
Chara was victimized by pinching in too deep in the offensive zone a couple times, and took a stupid interference penalty in the third period with his team down 3-1. Seidenberg, as mentioned previously, was also victimized by pinching in too far offensively and getting caught up ice, giving Toronto good scoring chances.
Jaromir Jagr has been invisible thus far, although when he is on a line with the offensively useless Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, I suppose you can understand why he hasn't been effective. Despite that, it is no excuse for some of the opportunities he's let slip away and his carelessness with the puck.
One bright spot from Game 2 for the Bruins was Seguin. From the start of the game, he was flying up and down the ice. He created many solid scoring chances, was relentless in his pursuit of the puck, was backchecking aggressively and was driving to the net as seen on the Boychuk goal. He was credited with eight shots on net, and if he keeps this play up those will start going in. The Bruins need to see this from Seguin night in and night out.
Leafs goalkeeper James Reimer may have had 39 saves in this game, but he was far from great. The Bruins didn't really challenge him much, and he still struggled with finding the puck and controlling his rebounds.
Unfortunately, for every juicy rebound Reimer let up, there was no Bruin in front to capitalize on it. Going forward, you hope the B's make sure they're in position to put those rebounds back on net, and hopefully into the net.
The Bruins look to bounce back on Monday night in Game 3 amidst what will be a raucous crowd at the Air Canada Centre.