BOSTON — The results weren’t there, but Claude Julien insisted he liked the way his Boston Bruins were playing in the final games of the regular season. All that was missing, the coach said, was the scoring.
Wednesday night, in the Stanley Cup playoff opener, the scoring arrived at the right time.
The Bruins, the Cup champions two years ago before going out in the first round last year, poured four goals past a shaky James Reimer over a span of 19:24 over the first and second periods and clubbed the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 to take the lead in a series that resumes Saturday night in Boston.
After going 2-5-2 over the last nine games of the regular season, averaging two goals per game over that stretch and ultimately losing the Northeast Division, the Bruins settled into the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. They outclassed the fifth-seeded Leafs, making their first playoff appearance since 2004, in Game 1.
David Krejci scored one goal and assisted on two others, reclamation project Wade Redden had a goal and a helper and Milan Lucic added two assists in front of Tuukka Rask, who broke a personal four-game playoff losing streak (dating back to four losses to Philadelphia in 2010).
Nathan Horton and Johnny Boychuk also scored for the Bruins.
James van Riemsdyk gave the Leafs an early lead and that was it for the Toronto offense as the Bruins, scoring four goals for the first time in 10 games, moved to 4-1 against the Leafs this season.
The Bruins outshot the Leafs 40-20. Reimer made 14 saves (and the Bruins had a goal waved off) in the third period but it was too little too late.
Phil Kessel, traded by the Bruins in the deal that landed Boston Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, was again ineffective against his old team, with only one harmless shot on goal. In 23 games against the Bruins, he has three goals and nine points and is a minus-22. He still gets booed by TD Garden fans every time he touches the puck and the crowd broke into taunting chants of “Kes-sel, Kes-sel” in the third period.
Redden was in the Boston lineup replacing 19-year-old Hamilton, Redden playing in his 102nd playoff game (he came in with 47 points).
“I think Wade feels pretty good about himself right now,” Julien said of the defensemen, exiled to the minors by the Rangers for two years because of his meaty contract (he signed with the Blues this year and was dealt to Boston at the deadline).
The two points in the first period were the 48th and 49th of Redden’s playoff career, but the goal was his first in the playoffs since 2007.
The Leafs scored the first goal of the series, striking quickly on the power play at 1:54 of the first period. Patrice Bergeron was off for tripping when Cody Franson set up van Riemsdyk alone with an open net. Van Riemsdyk scored his 12th career playoff goal.
The Bruins then struck for two goals in the final 3:40 of the period, Redden’s slapper going in off Reimer and Horton deflecting in Redden’s shot with 11.7 seconds left. Toronto argued Horton’s stick was too high when he tipped the puck down, but the goal held up under review.
The building rocked and the red light was on for Seguin 1:10 into the second period, but the puck had hit the post.
The Bruins did make it 3-1 when the Leafs, tired and needing a change, flubbed the puck in front of their net and Krejci picked it up, wheeled and scored at 10:25 of the second.
NOTES: Redden posted his eighth career multi-point playoff game. … The franchises last met in a playoff series in 1974, and the Leafs haven’t beaten the Bruins in a series since 1959. … Julien already had his game face on early Wednesday morning. Asked what he expected from the Maple Leafs, he said, “I don’t care. I think it’s more about what I expect from our team. I don’t care what they do, what I care (about) is what we do.” … The Bruins came in with a roster loaded with 1,273 games of playoff experience, while Toronto had just 206 games of experience. The Bruins had 22 Cup rings (17 of the players around two years ago), the Leafs none. … Boston came in 26-6-5 in its last 37 games against the Leafs, 11-1-1 in the last 13 at TD Garden. … Kessel entered with 15 points in 15 playoff games, all with the Bruins. … Toronto got Ryan Bozak back after he missed the last two games of the regular season with an upper-body injury. … Rich Peverley, who had 12 points in 25 games during the Bruins’ Cup run in 2011, was a healthy scratch.