During the two days between Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference opening-round series against the Bruins, the Maple Leafs expressed confidence they could play a great deal better than they did in Game 1, a 4-1 loss.
They promised renewed commitment to limiting turnovers, playing physical, and winning one-on-one puck battles.
On Saturday night, they did just that and departed TD Garden with a come-from-behind 4-2 victory and a 1-1 tie in the best-of-seven matchup.
One of the stars of the effort was left wing Joffrey Lupul, who scored the Maple Leafs’ first two goals.
Lupul’s first goal came at 5:18 of the second period with two seconds remaining on the man advantage. He collected a rebound and beat Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask to make it 1-1.
Lupul gave his team the lead for good at 11:56. Matt Frattin did the dirty work, driving wide on Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. Seidenberg couldn’t prevent the pass and Frattin found Lupul just outside the left post, and he backhanded his shot past Rask. It was Frattin’s first NHL playoff game.
“It was a good play by Frattin,’’ said Lupul. “He had his legs going all game and he was shooting the puck and taking it hard to the net. It was a big game for him to step in after not playing for some time and giving us a spark.’’
Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk (who turned 24 Saturday) potted the other two goals for Toronto.
Lupul, who missed five games because of a concussion suffered April 4 against Philadelphia, looked fluid, energetic and strong, like the rest of the Maple Leafs forwards.
“We bounced back,’’ said Lupul. “We’ve been doing it all year. I think that’s one of the main differences [in] our team this year to last year. When we’ve had bad outings like we did for sure in Game 1, we’re able to refocus and bounce back. It was a hard-fought game tonight. They played well. It wasn’t easy.’’
The Maple Leafs’ best players all season were their best players in Game 2.
“We would take goals from anyone right there,’’ said Lupul. “It was nice to get one on the power play. They’re one of the better penalty-killing teams in the league, if not the best, so getting one on the power play was a big momentum swing. We were a threat all night. We shot a lot more pucks and went harder to the net and that will probably be the recipe for the rest of the series.’’
Coach Randy Carlyle is known for scrambling his lines during games and he did a lot of that in Game 2. Lupul said it really didn’t throw him off because he wasn’t affected as much as some other forwards.
“You’ve got to be focused,’’ said Lupul. “For myself and [Tyler] Bozak, it didn’t matter. We were playing against whoever. It was just the right winger who was changing. It’s not that difficult for me. Whenever I was out, I was changing. It’s good for me to get into a rhythm. But a lot of other guys had to be on their toes on the bench.’’
Lupul said it was important to get so many different contributions on the ice, many of which didn’t show up on the scoresheet.
“You want your best players to be the best and lead,’’ said Lupul. “But it takes every guy in the playoffs and I think that’s why we were successful tonight. From [defense] blocking shots and getting pucks out and playing physical in front of our net to [scoring by the] forwards. Lots of guys played really well tonight and that’s going to need to continue. You’re not going to win playoff hockey games with just three or four guys going. It’s going to take a team effort. Just the same as we felt after Game 1, we felt bad and we felt we had to flush it. Right now, we feel great. But same thing, flush it. It’s 1-1 and we’re happy to be going home.’’
The Maple Leafs have played a determined game much of the season and it was evident on Saturday as they demonstrated a lot of tenacity.
“I think that’s the strength of any good team, really,’’ said Lupul. “Obviously things aren’t going to go your way every night. We were pretty disappointed with the way we played in Game 1. But I thought when we came in the next day for practice, everyone brought a good attitude and we were confident we were going to play well in Game 2. You’re not going to say, ‘We’re going to come out and win Game 2 for sure,’ but we were pretty confident we were going to have a good effort.’’