BOSTON, MA - As Jarome Iginla was heading into his first regular season game in the spoked-B on Thursday night, he wanted to get off to a good start.
"As a team, we want to make a good first impression," Iginla had said, prior to a 3-1 season opening win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. "It’s a lot of the same guys but some of the news guys like myself; you want to get off to a good start at here at home and make a good first impression."
The new Bruins right winger may not have started off the season in the scoring columns (with Chris Kelly, Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron doing the honors), but he still made his mark on the stat sheet, dropping the gloves in Big Bad Bruins fashion.
It's nothing new to the power forward's game, but it immediately made an impact with the Boston faithful.
Nearing the midpoint of the second period, Iginla got leveled at the red line near the penalty box with Tampa Bay's Radko Gudas. He wasn't too happy with the hit he didn't see coming.
The gloves immediately dropped, as the pair squared off and the crowd grew louder.
"It wasn’t planned. I wasn’t planning on getting run over either," remarked the Bruin. "You know, it was a fiesty game, it was a good game. At times each team had some momentum and we found a way to get back and had a great third. Tuukks was awesome, PK being able to kill off two 5-on-3's with the offense they have ,was a big part of that game."
"Just going off of emotion and nothing planned, getting run over is just part of it and it was a good atmosphere in here tonight."
Milan Lucic wasn't surprised to see his new linemate engage in a bout, but he also wasn't too pleased with the up-ice feed he sent Iginla that caused him to be blindsided by the hit.
"A bit of a suicide pass on my part, I kind of apologized to him after that pass," said Lucic. "But like I talk about, one of the things I always said that I kind of looked up to him [for] is he’s willing to stick up for himself in the right situations and you saw it there."
Whether sticking up for himself, or for his teammates, Iginla added one more fight to his already 56 NHL fights during the regular season since 1996-97.
The winger also started out with a heavy hit during his first shift of the game, throwing the body on Eric Brewer along the boards. That was the first time, besides the team's opening introductions before puck drop, that he ignited the crowd.
"Just trying to play hard, trying to get in to it," said Iginla. "From when the puck drops for the first game that actually matters everybody is a little more revved up and excited."
"That’s just a part of it and playing with the Bruins, you do want to get in there on the forecheck and get hit and join in on that and put pressure on their D, so I was trying to do that early."
Whether he fights soon again or not, he's looking to bring out that physical aspect of his game, playing on a team with that tough-to-play-against identity.
"Here, it’s pretty physical hockey. I’ve seen it on the other side," said Iginla. "You want to pull your weight and contribute to that and as far as fights, do I expect to fight more? I don’t really ever plan that, I don’t have a number or a goal or what I'm trying to avoid."
"I'm just playing hard and try to compete in battle, and it happens. So I’ve never looked at it like I’m trying to avoid them or get into them."
But he is actively doing, is embracing the Bruins' team mentality - and buying in to Head Coach Claude Julien's structure.
"It was his first game, so I thought he did a good job of doing what he wanted to do for our team," said the B's bench boss following the win. "He had a good opportunity late in the third that he could have capitalized on in the slot. Had scoring chances, he was physical; finished his checks and he obviously fought so he did what he had to do."
"Some of those guys are showing that they want to be here and they’re willing to do the things and if we give them time, they’ll only get better."
For Iginla, he was able to feed off of his linemates, and find a rhythm as the game progressed.
"It felt good to play here and play at home, have the crow. You know, be a Bruin," Iginla remarked. "Guys play hard and from some big blocked shots, to guys running over, to Thorty [Shawn Thornton], starting it off with a tilt there."
Before Iginla dropped the gloves, late in the first period, Thornton was the first to square off. When Adam McQuaid cross-checked B.J. Crombeen, and a scuffle ensued with Labrie going after No. 54, Thornton stepped in and fought the rookie.
It energized the team - and fans - and set up a crowd-pleasing scrap half a period later from Iginla.
"There were a lot of different things in the game tonight," he remarked, after being engaged in his first victory as a Bruin.
"But it felt good to be part of an intense season opener again and to now get things started."
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