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Marner helps Maple Leafs set tone against Bruins in Game 1

Scores twice in Toronto's first series-opening win since 2003

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Mitchell Marner couldn't care less about history. He just wants to help these Toronto Maple Leafs make some of their own.

Few know the postseason burden shouldered by the Maple Leafs more than their 21-year-old forward, who grew up in the Toronto area as an avid fan of his hometown team.

Marner was 5 years old the last time the Maple Leafs won Game 1 of a Stanley Cup Playoff series, a dry spell he wanted to end.


{RELATED: Maple Leafs charge past Bruins in Game 1 | Complete series coverage]


In his mind, enough was enough.

"We're a different team," Marner said. "We've got a little more confidence in this room and we're ready to play with it."

Marner wasn't just talking the talk. He walked the walk.

By scoring Toronto's first two goals, he helped the Maple Leafs defeat the Boston Bruins 4-1 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round at TD Garden on Thursday. 

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is here Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVAS).

The win was the first for the Maple Leafs in a playoff series opener since they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3 on April 9, 2003, a span of 5,846 days. In the minds of his teammates, Marner was the catalyst, showcasing his skill and swagger.

Video: Discussing Marner's performance vs. Bruins in Game 1

"Mitchie's got that confidence level to pretty much shake anything off, move forward and look to the future," Toronto center Nazem Kadri said. "Sometimes I've got to bring him back (to earth) a little bit, but Mitchie's an elite player, a talented player, and he's going to be that for a long time."

That was evident for all to see. 

After Patrice Bergeron put the Bruins up 1-0 midway through the first period, Marner tied it at 16:44. He then put the Maple Leafs ahead at 2:47 of the second, scoring on a shorthanded penalty shot after he was taken down from behind on a breakaway by Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk.

Marner's quickness symbolized Toronto's success throughout the game. The Maple Leafs had three breakaways in the second period thanks to some seeing-eye seam passes that allowed them to get behind the defense.

"We know we're fast in this locker room," Marner said. "I think when we play right it's hard to stop us."

Marner led the Maple Leafs with nine points (two goals, seven assists) a season ago in their seven-game, first-round loss to the Bruins. Boston coach Bruce Cassidy recalled telling Marner in the handshake line how impressed he was with him.

Video: TOR@BOS, Gm1: Marner pots second goal on penalty shot

"I just told Marner, 'You had a [heck] of a series,'" Cassidy said last week. "[Heck] of a player. We had our hands full with him.

"Every time we play him, he's the guy we're worried about. Every time we play him, he seems to make something happen. That kid looks like he loves playing the game every time you see him. Every freakin' time."

Cassidy's task after the loss Thursday: Find a way to stop Marner. 

Easier said than done.

"Listen, years ago I remember people said of Wayne Gretzky: 'Why doesn't anyone hit that guy?'" Cassidy said. "Well, it's not that easy. So I think it becomes containment issues, play him hard, play him honest 1-on-1, obviously if you can be physical against him, great.

"He's a good player, he's played well against us and we need to find an answer against him."

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