Brad Marchand may be excused early from the morning skate for the rest of the playoffs.

The scrappy winger, who had struggled mightily to find his legs and his game throughout the Toronto series, found them both last night. As well as, more importantly, the back of the net at 15:40 of overtime to beat the New York Rangers, 3-2, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and remove from his back a monkey that was growing into a gorilla.

Marchand was the Bruins’ leading scorer this season, but was goalless in the playoffs until Patrice Bergeron put the puck perfectly on his stick with a cross-the-slot pass he tipped by Henrik Lundqvist. It finished off a night in which he was one of the most dominant players on the ice.

Throughout the game, Marchand had a jump in his step not in evidence against the Leafs. It came on the same day he left the morning skate at the Garden doubled over as if he’d been shot full of BBs.

Marchand disappeared into the bowels of the Garden, but returned with a vengeance. He was all over the ice from puck drop until his goal put the Bruins up a game going into Sunday afternoon’s Game 2 at the Garden.

“I didn’t want to waste my energy there this morning,” Marchand said, jokingly. “I’m serious. I wanted to get off the ice. Claude (Julien) knows I hate the morning skate (before a game).

“He used to yell at me when we won the Cup there because I wouldn’t even take a stride. I just wanted to get off early.”

He certainly took many strides last night, including the key ones that shot him past Mats Zuccarello on his way to the net for the game-winning goal. Tipping the puck ahead to Bergeron in the neutral zone, Marchand cuffed Zuccarello away with his left arm and skated freely in on Lundqvist between the circles. The puck barely beat the sprawling defender, skidding on his belly, into the back of the net.