Mitch Marner a force in Leafs' convincing win over Bruins
Penalty-shot goal sparks 4-1 victory as Toronto grabs 1-0 series lead
Hours after joking about his continued inability to grow a playoff beard, Mitch Marner stepped up like a hardened post-season performer.
The slick winger scored twice, including on a short-handed penalty shot to give his team a lead it would never surrender, as the Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Boston Bruins 4-1 on Thursday to grab a 1-0 advantage in their best-of-seven first-round series.
Marner paced the Leafs with nine points in their seven-game exit at the hands of the Bruins at this stage some 12 months ago, and once again demonstrated an uncanny ability to step up in big moments.
WATCH | Marner shines as Leafs take Game 1 in Boston:
"We're a fast team," said Marner, who pointed to Toronto's confidence as a difference this time around against Boston. "When we play right, it's hard to stop us."
The 21-year-old got the Leafs back to even after the Bruins pulled ahead in the first period before connecting on his penalty shot with a ridiculous move on Tuukka Rask.
"He's one of our special players," said Toronto defenceman Jake Muzzin, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Los Angeles Kings. "He reads the play so well. He's almost one step ahead, to be honest."
Marner, who said prior to the game the peach fuzz growing on his face "gets heavier now," not only lead the offensive charge, but along with John Tavares and Zach Hyman, kept Boston's big line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak — which combined for 30 points against Toronto last spring — in check at 5 on 5.
"We just wanted to stay above them," Marner said. "We wanted to make it hard on them getting to our blue line and getting it in. Muzzy and [defence partner Nikita] Zaitsev did a great job as well."
Bergeron replied for Boston, while Rask stopped 29 shots as the Leafs won a Game 1 for the first time since April 9, 2003, against the Philadelphia Flyers.
"A big road win for us," Toronto centre Auston Matthews said. "We really kept our composure."
Game 2 goes Saturday at TD Garden ahead of the series shifting to Scotiabank Arena on Monday and Wednesday.
"Still six games left here to get the job done," Marchand said. "We have to be better."
WATCH | Marner converts historic penalty shot:
Tied 1-1 after 20 minutes and with his team down a man, Marner moved to his forehand on the penalty shot for his second goal of the night at 2:47 of the second after getting brought down on a breakaway by Jake DeBrusk.
"I kind of had an idea of what I wanted to do," said Marner, who scored Toronto's first penalty shot in the playoffs since Mats Sundin in 1999. "Last second I switched it up just seeing where he was and seeing his position."
Boston pushed in the third, but Andersen and the Leafs held their nerve until Tavares iced it into an empty net for Toronto's first victory in a Game 1 in 5,846 days — when Marner was five years old.
"[Marner's] just matured," said Kadri, who along with defenceman Gardiner are the only two players still on Toronto's roster from the team's epic third-period collapse in Game 7 against Boston back in 2013. "Mitchie's got that confidence level to pretty much shake anything off, move forward and look to the future."