BOSTON — On the heels of a 3-2 loss, coach Jim Montgomery stood behind his choice to start Linus Ullmark over Jeremy Swayman in Game 2 of the Boston Bruins‘ first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.

Ullmark, who finished with 30 stops, got the call in net even after Swayman was dominant making 35 saves for Boston in a 5-1 victory over the Leafs in Saturday’s Game 1.

“No second guesses,” Montgomery said. “He was terrific. Made multiple big-time saves.”

Montgomery had flat-out refused to name a starter leading up to Monday’s game while being peppered with questions about whether he’d keep the Bruins’ established rotation alive. Boston had strictly alternated between Swayman and Ullmark since February; Monday was the 28th straight game they’d employed the same tactic.

It just wasn’t something Montgomery was willing to comment on publicly, and the guessing game continued right until warmups of Game 2.

“I don’t know why we would divulge information,” Montgomery said earlier Monday. “If you’re preparing for a game, there are parts of a goaltender that are part of your pre-scout. So that’s an advantage for us, right? If [they] don’t know who’s starting.”

In the end, it was hard for Montgomery to go wrong. Ullmark is the NHL’s reigning Vezina Trophy winner, and both he and Swayman had strong stats in the regular season. Swayman was 25-10-8 with a .916 SV% and 2.53 GAA, while Ullmark was 22-10-7 with 2.57 GAA.

2 Related

Swayman had been an obvious choice to tap in Game 1 given his 3-0-0 record against Toronto in the regular season. Ullmark was equally excellent in Game 2 and gave Boston every chance to take a commanding 2-0 lead over Toronto in the series.

The Bruins were in control early, taking a 2-1 over the Leafs after the first period with goals from Morgan Geekie and David Pastrnak. Boston would go down a defenseman in the second when Andrew Peeke exited, leaving the Bruins with a five-man rotation on the back end. Montgomery had no update on Peeke following the loss.

Toronto then tied the game with a power play goal from John Tavares in the middle frame to make it 2-2 heading into the third. The Leafs turned up the pressure there while Boston looked increasingly flat-footed, and Ullmark had to execute two exceptional glove saves — one in particular against Nick Robertson — to keep the score knotted.

It took Auston Matthews, the NHL’s Rocket Richard Trophy winner with 69 goals in the regular season, slipping behind Bruins’ defenseman Charlie McAvoy to finally beat Ullmark with a breakaway strike to give the Leafs a 3-2 advantage late in the third. It was the first time Toronto had led Boston in their past five meetings.

“There’s a reason he scored 69,” Ullmark said of Matthews’ winner. “[I’ll] try to get him next time.”

When that next opportunity comes for Ullmark, only Montgomery knows for sure. The series turns now to Toronto with Game 3 set for Wednesday. Montgomery’s focus isn’t immediately on who will be in the crease, but on improving how the Bruins play in front of whoever earns the next start.

“We’re not playing fast enough,” Montgomery said. “We’re slow in transition, which is not allowing us to possess pucks and not allowing us to get in on the forecheck well enough. I didn’t think our urgency was where it needed to be to prevail tonight.”

Maple Leafs forward William Nylander missed Game 2 with an undisclosed injury and has yet to appear in the series. While Toronto hasn’t revealed what Nylander is dealing with, it’s reported to have flared up for the winger sometime after the regular-season finale last Wednesday.

With the series tied 1-1, Game 3 is Wednesday in Toronto.