BOSTON, MA – The song by the Dropkick Murphy’s that played during the Opening Night ceremonies put it perfectly - the boys are back.
The Bruins scored a goal in all three periods, one each from Milan Lucic, Danny Paille, and Johnny Boychuk and Tuukka Rask saved 20 shots to lead the Bruins to an exciting, 3-1, victory over the New York Rangers at TD Garden, in their first game back from the work stoppage.
“I liked our effort tonight,” said head coach Claude Julien. “Again, couldn’t be happier because I like the effort that we gave tonight. The guys seemed to be pretty focused, I thought we had some real good plays and good decisions. As bad as we looked on Tuesday, was as good as we looked tonight.
“I don’t really have any complaints about anyone on our team tonight, because I thought from top to bottom we were a pretty good hockey club.”
The Garden was hopping from the start, in what felt more like a playoff atmosphere and the Black & Gold fed off the energy of the crowd.
“It was awesome,” said Chris Bourque, making his Bruins debut. “I’ve been here in the crowd to watch these games, but to play in front of this crowd was a special moment for me.
“It’s got to be the best crowd in the league. They’re so loud and so passionate.”
Milan Lucic, who became a father for the first time earlier this week, scored the Bruins first goal of the season to put Boston up, 1-0, at 14:14 of the opening period.
Andrew Ference fired a pass from the Bruins blue line to David Krejci,who was waiting at the far blue line. Krejci skated to the top of the right circle and fired a slap shot. New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist let up a massive rebound that Lucic, driving hard to the net, slammed home from the left face-off dot.
“That was one of the things we talked about, drive the middle and get those rebounds,” said Lucic, who was given a 10-minute misconduct late in the third period and subsequently thrown out of the game for chirping with the Rangers’ Mike Rupp.
It has been quite the week for the winger, who welcomed his daughter, Valentina, to the world this past Thursday.
“I’d have to say today,” said Lucic, when asked what was more emotional, his daughter’s birth or the season-opener. “There’s so much emotion, coming back with everything that went on with the CBA, the season finally starting, the whirlwind since Wednesday night to now.
“That’s the first thing I though of was [Valentina]. I’m sure you could have seen it in my face when I scored. I’m just happy my wife and the baby are healthy and happy.”
The B’s second goal came 8:20 into the second period. Gregory Campbell collected a pass from Danny Paille, skated into the zone and ripped off a slap shot from the top of the right circle.
Paille tipped the puck in front of the net, deflecting the puck off the right post. The puck then hit the back of Lundqvist and dribbled over the goal line to make it 2-0.
“There was a couple of guys changing on the other side, so I gave [the puck] to [Campbell],” said Paille. “He just came in and stopped, and then just wanted to time it right when I went to the net. He shot it right as I was going through. It worked out great and I got a great bounce.”
Julien gave credit to the fourth line of Paille, Campbell, and Shawn Thornton for providing the energy for the rest of the team to feed off of. Thornton and Campbell both dropped the gloves within three seconds of each other in the second period.
“They did exactly what we expect them to do,” said the B’s bench boss. “Shawn has always been there for us, Soupy always like to take on bigger guys than he should, but that just means that he doesn’t back down from everybody. Not only did they score the goal, they did a lot of good things.”
The Rangers cut the lead to, 2-1, just over four minutes later. Brad Richards fired a shot from the slot that was blocked by Patrice Bergeron. The puck found its way right back to Richards who took an off-balance slap shot that found its way over the left shoulder of Tuukka Rask.
Other than that goal, Rask was on his game, saving 20 of 21 shots. Rask credited the defense with clearing things out in front of the net.
“I felt good throughout the game,” said the goalie. “The guys made my job so easy, because I saw pretty much everything.”
The Rangers went on a 5-on-3 advantage just over four minutes into the third. The Bruins managed to kill off the first penalty ,and with 20 seconds remaining on the second penalty, Rick Nash was whistled for a hook, ending the threat.
“It was great,” said Rask of the kill. “I think they had maybe two shots and a couple of missed nets, but I thought we did a great job. That’s something you need to be able to do in these games to be able to win them.”
The defenseman took a few strides towards the net and fired a wrister that found its way between Lundqvist and the left post.
Boychuk, who was celebrating his 29th birthday, said even though it appeared that Bergeron may have tipped in the goal, he wasn’t giving away the glory.
“Are you kidding me? It’s my birthday,” the defenseman quipped.