BOSTON—Those were the Boston Bruins everyone was expecting.
The Rock ’em Sock ’em Big Bad Bruins got themselves back in this series with a physical display of domination, getting the better of the Maple Leafs with a 4-1 win Saturday night, while also getting under the skin of Nazem Kadri.
The edge to the game took a toll on players on both sides: Boston’s Torey Krug took a hard hit from Jake Muzzin and fell hard into the boards and left the game.
Kadri suffered a knee-on-knee hit from Jake DeBrusk, Boston’s big agitator for the evening, late in the second. Kadri scored the lone Leafs goal but, tired of being targeted all night, got thrown out of the game after cross-checking DeBrusk. Kadri seemed to be retaliating to a DeBrusk hit on Patrick Marleau. Kadri and DeBrusk had fought in the first period.
Kadri has a history of crossing the line and has been suspended multiple times, including last year for three games against Boston. As a repeat offender, he could be suspended again.
Leafs coach Mike Babcock said he didn’t see the hit.
“The league decides … all this kind of stuff,” he said. “It was a physical game. The referees let a lot of stuff go. In the end, you can’t let that get in the way of what you’re doing. Playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs isn’t supposed to be easy.”
Boston’s win tied the best-of-seven series at a game apiece, with Game 3 Monday at the Scotiabank Arena.
The Leafs stole home ice advantage with a win in Game 1. But that might have just poked the bear. If there was surprise about Game 1, it wasn’t so much that the Maple Leafs were the more physical team, it was that Boston wasn’t physical at all.
The town felt like it brooded over that. Between games, the Bruins spoke a great deal about needing to answer the Leafs physically.
Even Brad Marchand owned up to it, admitting the Bruins took the Leafs too lightly.
“They played a little more physical then I think they normally do,” Marchand said between games “They played well, they played hard, and they played fast, and they played their game.”
That’s part of the reason veteran David Backes, a scratch in Game 1, returned to the lineup. He made his presence felt in a first period in which Boston took a 2-0 lead. They targeted Jake Gardiner and Kadri in first-period clobberings.
Charlie Coyle got the opener when the Bruins dominated along the boards behind Frederik Andersen, then David Pastrnak finished off a 2-on-1 that presented itself during a line change when Muzzin misplayed a puck.
The hard hits came again in the second period, but more evenly. Pastrnak laid out Tavares. Muzzin laid out Krug.
But the Bruins still added to their lead, going into the third up 3-0. It was a lazy play by William Nylander, overskating the puck right beside the Leaf net. He wasn’t being pressured, he just misplayed it, leaving a gift of a goal for Danton Heinen.
The Bruins also won the games within the game. Coach Bruce Cassidy chose to play his top line, with Patrice Bergeron, against the Auston Matthews line. That meant Boston’s other three lines took turns going up against the Tavares line that had dominated Game 1.
Cassidy started by putting his fourth line, centred by Noel Acciari, out to start the game. By the end of the second period, three different Bruins lines had scored against the Leafs’ top three lines.
The one bad theme for the Leafs: the pairing of Muzzin and Nikita Zaitsev was minus-3 through 40 minutes, victims of their own miscues and misplays.
All the line juggling in the world wasn’t going to help, but Leafs coach Mike Babcock did try Auston Matthews between Zach Hyman and Mitch Marner, and Trevor Moore with John Tavares and Connor Brown.
Kevin McGran is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @kevin_mcgran