The Bruins opened up their 2013-14 season with a solid win over the Lightning on Thursday night, beating Tampa Bay, 3-1, in front of a sellout crowd at TD Garden.
Despite many new players on the Bruins’ roster, it was the familiar faces that led the way, with goals by Chris Kelly, Milan Lucic, and Patrice Bergeron.
After allowing 15 shots in the first period and a tying goal midway through the second, Boston shook off the rust and stifled the Lightning the rest of the way with its trademark shutdown defense.
“I thought the last five minutes of the second and the [whole] third period we were a little bit more of the team we wanted to be, so it was nice to see our team get better as the game went on,” said coach Claude Julien. “It’s the first game [of the season]; it’s the first game for a lot of those guys that were in the lineup tonight, the first real game, I guess, [but we’re] overall happy with the win and we know we still have some work to do.”
“We had a pretty good third period; we started playing the way that we wanted to play,” Lucic said. “We started to have more in-zone time, it seemed like things started to flow a little better, and we were more in synch … [The Lightning] did a good job keeping us off our rhythm, but Tuukka [Rask] kept us in there and we found a way to win.”
Rask, fresh off signing an eight-year, $56 million contract extension, was superb in net, allowing just one goal on 33 shots.
“I felt pretty good,” he said. “I made some saves, but I didn’t necessarily feel really good … I think everybody looked a little tired. We didn’t have our legs, and mentally we weren’t as sharp as usual, but it was a good win.”
The Bruins got the scoring started at 11:39 of the first period when Kelly was awarded a penalty shot while Boston was killing a Tampa Bay power play, and the alternate captain delivered, beating Tampa Bay’s Anders Lindback with a backhand to put the Bruins up, 1-0.
“I had an idea of what I was going to do before [the shot],” Kelly said. “I try that move in practice, but Tuukka doesn’t move, so it ends up just going in his pad, so it’s kind of deflating. I was happy [Lindback] bit; you know he’s a big guy, [when you] shoot high he takes away the upper net, so I just tried to freeze him.
“I don’t think [I’ve] ever [had a penalty shot],” he added. “I normally don’t get those calls.”
Just over two minutes into the second period, it looked like Jordan Caron had made it 2-0 when he fought to get the puck past Lindback, but the referee waved off the goal, saying he had blown the whistle before it crossed the line. Tampa Bay tied the game seven minutes later when Eric Brewer found Valtteri Fippulla on a two-on-one rush.
Lucic put the Bruins back in the lead with just a minute to play in the period, taking a feed from David Krejci and beating Lindback over the shoulder. It was Lucic’s second straight year scoring in the opening game.
“[Krejci] saw me and I kind of knew he was going to pass it to me there,” Lucic said. “[I] didn’t have to say much; I know I didn’t have as much time and I just tried to get a good hard shot as quick as possible.
“It [feels] good [to score in Game 1],” he added. “Usually you don’t score [in the] first game of the season, but now [I have] two years in a row … it’s nice to start it off like that.”
Taking the 2-1 lead into the third period, the Bruins scored another shorthanded goal, this time from Bergeron with just under 16 minutes to play to take a 3-1 lead. They held on for the win, thanks in large part to the team’s impressive penalty kill, which allowed no goals on five power plays, including killing two long five-on-three opportunities.
“You always have to make extra effort when you are down two guys,” Rask said. “That’s something positive to see that our penalty killers were really good today and guys sacrificed out there, so that’s a good start for that.
“It’s really important, especially when you go down two men like that [and] you survive that twice in a game. That’s something we thrive on and we take a lot of pride in doing and it’s been working well.”
The Bruins won their first game of the season for the second year in a row, after having defeated the Rangers in last season’s opener. The Bruins’ next game is on Saturday when the Detroit Red Wings, now a division foe, come to Boston.