The Bruins’ “Swedish Connection” scored first-period goals in Tuesday night’s 5-1 victory over the Maple Leafs in Game 7 of their opening-round playoff series at the Garden.
Joakim Nordstrom of Stockholm scored the opener and Marcus Johansson of Landskrona secured the game winner that advanced the Bruins to the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Bruins will host the upstart Columbus Blue Jackets beginning Thursday night at the Garden.
“It is always big to have a good start and get the lead,” Johansson said. “There was a lot of pressure going into the game and anything can happen in a Game 7.
“So, to get a good start is always huge. It was good start for us and it was something that we needed and helped us get going.”
The Bruins needed seven games to eliminate the Maple Leafs in last year’s opening round but neither Nordstrom or Johansson were involved in the process. Nordstrom signed as a free agent last July 1, and Johansson was a trade deadline acquisition Feb. 25 from the New Jersey Devils.
“You envision a lot of things but in the last two games the character of this team has shown,” Johansson said. “It’s unbelievable and I think we earned our way into this Game 7 in Toronto and then earned the win tonight and that’s a good feeling.”
Nordstrom and Johansson essentially were part-time employees in the series with the Maple Leafs. Nordstrom was a healthy scratch in Game 5 and Johansson missed Games 2 and 3 with an illness.
Nordstrom was consigned to the left wing on the Bruins’ fourth line with center Sean Kuraly, who missed the opening four games with a hand injury, and Noel Acciari. Johansson skated left wing on the third line with center Charlie Coyle, another trade deadline acquisition, and right wing Karson Kuhlman, who was a healthy scratch in Games 4 and 5.
Kuraly made it 3-1 with a spectacular rush at 2:40 of the third and Coyle potted an empty netter at 17:28. The bottom two lines accounted for four goals and two assists from what amounted to patchwork combinations by coach Bruce Cassidy.
“I thought every line on our squad had good games throughout the series,” Nordstrom said. “Coming down to Game 7 and I think everyone stepped up and I thought we played out best game of the series.”
The Maple Leafs were dominating play when Nordstrom put the Bruins up 1-0 on an unassisted tally at 14:29 of the first. Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk made a nice play on the half wall to keep the puck in the Leafs’ zone and found Nordstrom at the bottom of the right circle. Nordstrom fired a bad angle shot that eluded Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen at the near post.
“I was just throwing it in there hoping for something to happen,” Nordstrom said. “I was looking for Sean (Kuraly) but their defenseman took away the pass and I was throwing it for a rebound.”
Johansson netted his first of the playoffs on a hustle play along the end boards. Johansson circled the net, found a favorable shooting lane and beat Andersen to the far post at 17:46.