BOSTON – An elbow to the head showed Mikhail Grabovski what playoff hockey is like.
Early in his postseason debut, Toronto’s center took the blow along the boards from Andrew Ference, who was suspended for one game after an NHL hearing Thursday.
Grabovski was leveled by another hard hit in the third period Wednesday night as the teams kept pounding each other the rest of the game — and even afterward.
Players were still on the ice after the Bruins’ 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs in the series opener when Boston’s Chris Kelly and Toronto’s Leo Komarov squared off near the penalty box.
“I don’t think we mind it,” Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid said. “It’s the playoffs and the physicality kind of steps up a level. So you’re playing the same team over and over again. You get some good battles going.”
Ference wasn’t penalized at the time for hitting Grabovski but will miss Saturday night’s second game.
But Maple Leafs Coach Randy Carlyle knows physical play is part of the sport — especially in the playoffs.
“To me, those are hits in the game,” said Carlyle, who had 210 penalty minutes as a Winnipeg Jet defenseman in 1987-88. “Sometimes in the playoffs you’re going to see physicality. It’ll be front and center. It’s a game that’s made to be physical. You’re allowed to hit people. To judge if it was offside, a bad hit or a belligerent hit, that’s not for me to judge. That’s for people in the league to make those determinations.”
Meanwhile, that style is likely to continue after the Bruins’ dominant performance in the opener.
“I expect them to come out very hard, physical and they’re going to be coming at us full-force,” Boston’s Johnny Boychuk said.
That’s just part of what the Maple Leafs must do to even the best-of-seven series.
“We didn’t play strong enough, and we didn’t win enough one-on-one battles,” Carlyle said. “We didn’t do enough with the puck to create anything. We just constantly turned the puck over.”
After James van Riemsdyk put the Maple Leafs ahead 1-0 on a power play just 1:54 into the game, the Maple Leafs had few solid chances.
Phil Kessel continued to struggle against the team that traded him to Toronto in 2009. He had just one shot after leading his team with 20 goals and 52 points in the regular season. In 23 games against the Bruins, he has three goals and six assists.
And, as usual, he was jeered by Bruins fans.
“I didn’t really pay attention to it,” Kessel said.
The Bruins had twice as many shots on goal, 40-20. Many of those the Maple Leafs did take were hardly challenging.
“They didn’t have too many chances there, just a couple of tips and stuff like that,” Boston goalie Tuukka Rask said after his 14th playoff game, “but I’m not going to take a break there even if we’re up 10-0 because you never know what’s going to happen.”
Toronto goalie James Reimer said he wasn’t surprised by anything in his first postseason game.
“I felt like I was well-prepared and ready to go,” he said. “The crowd is more into it, so there’s a little more intensity, so you have to find a way to keep calm no matter which way the game is swinging.”
Or how physical it gets.
“Whatever happens, happens. Our game plan doesn’t change,” Boston’s Dennis Seidenberg said. “We want to be physical and we play in between the whistles, and whatever happens after I’m sure we’ve got a lot of guys who can take care of themselves.”
SENATORS 4, CANADIENS 2: Craig Anderson made 48 saves in a spectacular goaltending performance as Ottawa beat host Montreal in Game 1.
Jakob Silfverberg and Marc Methot scored early in the third period as Ottawa came from a 2-1 deficit to take the lead. Guillaume Latendresse added a late goal.
Montreal center Lars Eller was taken to a hospital with head and facial injuries after he was caught with a shoulder to the face on an open-ice hit from Senators defenseman Eric Gryba, who received a five-minute major penalty.
CAPITALS 3, RANGERS 1: Alex Ovechkin’s franchise-record 31st career playoff goal got the Capitals started before less-heralded teammates Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera scored 46 seconds apart, and Washington won Game 1.
Ovechkin, a two-time MVP who led the NHL with 32 goals this season, crashed the net to score on a power play about seven minutes into the second period to tie the game for the Capitals, the third-seeded team in the Eastern Conference.