BOSTON - Joffrey Lupul scored twice and Phil Kessel registered a rare goal against his former employers as the Toronto Maple Leafs rose to the playoff occasion Saturday night to defeat Boston 4-2 and pull even with the Bruins at a game apiece.
The best-of-seven series switches to Toronto for Games 3 and 4 at the Air Canada Centre on Monday and Wednesday. And the momentum is in the Blue corner after the Leafs broke their TD Garden hoodoo. The last time Toronto scored three goals in Boston was in March 2011.
While the Leafs excelled on the night, a gritty Bruins team refused to yield in a high-stakes game that delivered great entertainment.
Trailing 1-0 early in the second period, Toronto reeled off three unanswered goals before Johnny Boychuk cut the deficit to 3-2 at 10:35 of the third period with a point shot through traffic.
The Boychuk goal cranked up the tension — and the noise. TD Garden was packed with 17,565 — the Bruins' 156th straight sellout — and they were into it.
James van Riemsdyk quieted the crowd with 3:07 remaining, when the big man managed to pull off a pirouette while parked in front of goal, spinning before putting the puck in off goalie Tuukka Rask for an insurance goal and a 4-2 lead.
Nathan Horton also scored for Boston.
Toronto looked in over its head in its return to the playoffs Wednesday, a 4-1 loss that increased Boston's home mastery over the Leafs to 12-1-1 in the last 14 meetings.
But the Leafs came out skating and hitting in a high-octane second game that was intense from the opening faceoff. Looking like a worthy playoff outfit, Toronto outshot the Bruins 12-10 in the first period and outhit them 22-10.
The effort turned into goals in the second period. Unlike the first game, Boston scored first. But Lupul was quick to show his nose for goals as Toronto pulled ahead 2-1 after 40 minutes.
Things looked promising for the Leafs entering the third. Toronto was 20-2-1 this season when leading after the second period.
It didn't take long to increase the lead as Nazem Kadri, after a Boston attack, found a streaking Kessel alone at the Boston blue-line and the mercurial Leafs star beat Rask on the breakaway after just 53 seconds for his first of the playoffs.
It was only Kessel's fourth goal — and his first at even-strength — in 24 games against the Bruins since being traded to Toronto.
A sliding Carl Gunnarssen stopped a Boston two-on-one later in the period after a Jake Gardiner giveaway — one of several on the night.
The hit count was 44-35 in Toronto's favour. Boston held a 41-32 edge in shots.
Both teams made changes for Game 2.
Boston replaced the suspended Andrew Ference with 19-year-old defenceman Dougie Hamillton while Rich Peverley, in place of Kaspars Daugavins, returned to action on the third line with Chris Kelly and 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr.
Toronto inserted Matt Frattin and Ryan Hamilton at forward, dropping tough guy Frazer McClaren and Clarke MacArthur. Ryan O'Byrne and Gardiner came in for defenceman Michael Kostka (broken finger) and Jean-Michael Liles. Joe Colborne was a healthy scratch again.
The yellow-and-black crowd was amped up from the get-go.
Boston's honorary "fan banner" captain for the game was Jeff Bauman, said to be instrumental in helping authorities identify the Boston bombing suspects. Bauman, a 27-year-old Costco worker who lost his legs in the terrorist attack, was received like a rock star as he waved the Buins flag from a wheelchair.
There was a frenetic opening with 3:38 worth of action before the first whistle. Toronto coach Randy Carlyle shook up his line combinations, seemingly looking to free Kessel from the shackles of the hulking Chara, who had 13 shifts in the first period alone (three more than the next Bruin).
The "Let's Go Bruins" chant came seconds after the opening puck dropped, soon to be followed by the taunting "Kessel" refrain directed at the former Bruin.
On the ice, it was big boy hockey with hits galore. Every metre came at a price. Colton Orr sent six-foot-nine Chara — a lamppost of a man — flying with a hit in the Boston corner.
There were also mistakes. Gardiner almost gifted the Bruins a goal when he gave the puck up to Gregory Campbell, whose shot was stopped by James Reimer. Then Tyler Bozak had a clean shot after a Boston blunder.
A Toronto three-on-one, with Chara caught up the ice, left Kessel with the shot but he was in-close and Rask stopped him. Late in the period, Reimer stopped an onrushing Tyler Seguin — who covered the ice like a guided missile all night.
Boston won 18 of 26 faceoffs in the first period and 31 of 48 through two periods.
The opening goal came at 1:56 of the second period after Horton swept over the Toronto blue-line and dropped the puck to Milan Lucic. Horton continued onto the goal and Lucic's shot went off first Horton's skate and then Cody Franson's leg into the net. The goal passed a video review.
Toronto answered quickly while Chara was serving a tripping penalty. Rask stopped Gardiner's shot from the point but Lupul was parked in front and tucked the rebound in at 5:18 — with just two seconds left on the power play — before either Bruin defenceman could close him down.
Toronto's Nikolai Kulemin hit the post with a sweet backhand midway through the second period that flew over Rask's shoulder.
Lupul put the Leafs ahead at 11:56 after an onrushing Frattin held off Seidenberg as he headed towards goal and managed to slip the puck across the crease over to Lupul.
Seconds later, Rask and defencemen McQuaid and Chara combined to make five — count 'em five — saves in a wild rat-a-tat sequence in front of the Boston goal. Reimer stuffed David Krejci at the side of the net on the ensuing rush.
Boston's Brad Marchand had difficulty getting to the bench later in the second after taking a Chara shot to the leg. But he was soon taking his regular shift.
NOTES — Coming into the game, both teams had a 31-31-1 playoff record against each other with Boston holding a 157-151 scoring edge. Game 2 of their 1951 semi final series ended in 1-1 tie due to a Toronto curfew of 11:45 p.m. on sporting events.