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Boston Bruins' Jeremy Swayman (1) blocks a shot by Toronto Maple Leafs' John Tavares (91) as Bruins' Andrew Peeke (52) defends during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, April 20, 2024, in Boston.Michael Dwyer/The Associated Press

Max Domi and Brad Marchand slashed each other before the opening puck drop. Timothy Liljegren paid an unexpected visit to Boston’s bench when he was checked over the boards. There was a seven-player scrum in Toronto’s net. There were two hooking penalties, two for roughing and one each for high sticking and cross-checking. There were 48 hits.

This was all in the first 20 minutes. If it’s the third Saturday of April, it must be Maple Leafs-Bruins playoff hockey.

Probably somewhere along the way to the arena, the visitors’ bus received a one-finger salute. When Toronto’s players skated out for pre-game warm-ups, they were serenaded with boos.

There is not a lot of love lost between these NHL rivals, dating back 100 years.

It ended up badly for the Maple Leafs. They were flattened 5-1 in the opening game of the post-season by a team that has their personal boogeyman.

The last time Toronto beat Boston in the post-season was 1959. The Bruins won all four games against them during the regular season, too.

There was really no reason to expect anything different. Game 2 is Monday night at TD Garden. Then the best-of-seven series comes to Scotiabank Arena for Games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Friday.

Boston took command less than three minutes in on a goal by Johnny Beecher on his team’s first shot. He snapped it past Ilya Samsonov, the Maple Leafs goalie, from 20 feet out.

It sounded like the building’s roof was going to fly off. There was a wild celebration accompanied by yellow towels being whipped through the air.

Of course, Boston would score first. It scored second, too, on a long one-timer by Brandon Carlo with 14:13 left in the second period. In between those goals, Toronto’s star centre Auston Matthews missed a gaping wide-open net. The fans taunted California-born Matthews, who led the league with 69 goals in 81 games, with chants of “USA!”

Yes, it’s another year and a different team but this looked eerily similar to the past. There is a possibility of going into a 2-0 hole when the clubs meet again at the “Gah-dun” on Monday night. Sure, Toronto could still win four of the next five, but who really believes that?

Matthews was in the penalty box for a cross-check when the Bruins struck again late in the second. Jake DeBrusk tapped one in and the place exploded for a third time. By then, fans were singing.

A penalty by Domi gave Boston another man the advantage and DeBrusk scored for the second time in two and a half minutes.

At that point the Maple Leafs’ wheels hadn’t come off and they had been jettisoned.

The crowd started hazing Samsonov. American or Russian, it didn’t matter.

It has been seven months since the Maple Leafs began training camp. Since then, they had played 90 games overall and 82 in the regular season. Everything they had done – all the work and all the pain – was in preparation for this.

But it certainly didn’t look like it.

This is the eighth straight year in which Toronto has reached the post-season, but last year was the only time in that span that it won a series. Prior to that, it hadn’t happened since 2004.

This is the fourth time in 11 years Boston and Toronto have met each in the first round. The last three times Boston won in seven games.

But everyone who qualifies gets a clean slate at this time of year.

“To get to this point is what you play for all year long,” Morgan Rielly, the Maple Leafs alternate captain, said hours before the contest.

Does the team’s lack of success against Boston prey on his psyche?

“I don’t spend much time thinking about what happened in the past,” Rielly said. “This is a new year and a new team.”

It’s just one game, but Toronto got steamrolled right out of the gate. It took a fourth-liner – David Kampf – to get them on the board in the third. Too little, too late.

In Toronto on Saturday, fans wore blue and white at the request of Mayor Olivia Chow, and then jammed into Maple Leaf Square to watch on a big screen. At the same time, the CN Tower was lit up in blue.

In Boston, streets outside the arena were closed off to traffic, turning it into a car-free zone where Bruins followers could gather.

Toronto started out on the wrong foot. William Nylander, arguably its second-best forward, missed the game with an undisclosed injury.

Nylander, the only member of the team to play all 82 regular-season games, woke up on Thursday in discomfort and sat out of practice on Friday and did not participate in Saturday’s morning skate.

The 27-year-old is coming off the best season of his career, in which he contributed 40 goals and 98 points. In nine campaigns, he has lined up in 651 of 653 games during the regular season and playoffs. For two days, the team refused to respond to questions about what happened, if he would play and, if he couldn’t play, how long he could be out.

They still haven’t said, but Nylander was missed.

“He is a very good player,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “He makes a big difference on our team. We have handled it very well when we have had players out, but we didn’t handle it well tonight.”

Jeremy Swayman, who went 3-0 against Toronto during the regular season with a .957 save percentage, got the start in Boston’s crease. He was as good as always, stopping 35 of 36 shots.

Samsonov has been erratic all year. He allowed 11 goals in his final two games in the regular season and four or more in five of the past nine. He turned away 19 of 23. Boston’s last goal was scored into an empty net.

Earlier in the day, Toronto players talked about how much they looked forward to this challenge.

“It’s what we play for all year,” Joel Edmundson, a defenceman, said. “The Day of Game 1 is very exciting. There is lots of emotion. You just want the puck to drop.

“It is the best time of the year.”

It is the best of times, but can also be the worst.

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