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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Out with the old, in with the new

New is better. We are bombarded with this message starting the day we are born. Babies come home to a new room, freshly painted, adorned with new stuff in every corner. From that point forward, advertisers pelt us with offers of ``new and improved." Every year there's a new car, new clothes, and new forms of entertainment gadgetry.

This was the message at the New Garden last night. Fans were instructed to forget about what happened to the Boston Bruins in recent years (no playoffs in three of their last six seasons). They were introduced to a new team with a new GM, a new coach, a new captain, a new scoreboard, and a new attitude and message. The only relic of the old regime was Rene Rancourt, who arrived fresh from atop the wedding cake to deliver a couple of stirring old anthems.

It was the first day of skating school, Hub of Hockey's 82d home opener. The Bruins were promoting new kids on the block, a new frontier, a new republic, New Coke (OK, maybe not that one), new media, new age, a New Deal, New Year's Eve, and Papa Jacobs's Brand New Bag.

It was, in fact, the first ``must-win" home opener in franchise history. And the Bruins won, beating the Calgary Flames, 3-2, in front of 17,565 old-school fans.

``I don't know if the guys picked up on the energy in the building, but there was certainly a lot of energy tonight," said new Bruins coach Dave Lewis. ``I thought we were physical tonight. I thought we were fast. Good effort."

There was an inordinate amount of pressure on the new B's (newbies?) because of Boston's 1-3-1 all-road start, coupled with a very public organizational pledge to improve. After everything we've been sold -- plus the rocky road last week -- a butt thumper in the home opener could have put the once-relevant Bruins into the same ZIP code as the New England Revolution. Nothing against the hard-working Revs, but they operate in a fringe professional sport. The Bruins (and Celtics) -- once kings of the jungle around here -- can ill afford to lose any more ground to the mighty Red Sox and Patriots.

Maybe that's why Jeremy Jacobs, reclusive for most of his 32 years as Bruins owner, was ubiquitous yesterday. It's part of the new Bruins pitch. They'll let your kids (under 12) in for free. They'll allow some of you on the ice for a photo op with players after the game. If you can supply the sheet of ice, they might even practice in your backyard. The Boston Bruins of 2006 are hungry for your love. Jacobs says they want to restore pride to the spoked-B.

And so they put on the full-rink press last night. Pregame was a homage to Hub hockey, saluting youth leagues, high schools, colleges (hello, Jerry York and Jack Parker), and ice institutions named Bucyk, Neely, and Bourque. They pounded home themes of Character, Drive, Desire, and Hustle. At times it felt like a spiritual revival that perhaps is appropriate for a region that once regarded the Old Garden as a house of worship.

Seventy-four-year-old Harry Sinden, bumped from the masthead (he's now a ``senior adviser") in the purge of '06, was one who enjoyed watching the new Bruins play their old game. Still, Harry warned, ``No matter how many changes you make, the game stays the same. What made things good in the past is the same thing that'll make you good now. You have to be disciplined. If we can't check and don't check, we lose."

As for the shrinking core of hockey krishnas, Sinden said, ``It's still there. It's kind of latent now, but that'll be no problem if we win and contend."

``It's a great hockey town," Jacobs added. ``If we give them good hockey, they'll be back."

It certainly came back for one night. The new Bruins scored in the 18th second of their new season at home when Brad Boyes took a pass from Marc Savard and flipped it past Miikka Kiprusoff before some of the old fans were in their new seats. Less than nine minutes later, Glen Murray fired a shot past Kiprusoff to make it 2-0.

After the Flames cut the lead in half, Murray scored on a falling-down, power-play wrist shot in the final seconds of the second period. The Flames' Alex Tanguay made it 3-2 midway through the third, but the Bruins held on and the crowd was old-timey happy at the finish.

Bruins goalie Hannu Toivonen (better hair than Heidi Klum) stopped 26 shots and picked up the No. 2 star.

``We want to make sure we generate the reputation that it's hard to play here in the Garden," said Toivonen. ``We wanted to establish that we're a tough team to play against here."

Murray, captain Zdeno Chara, and Patrice Bergeron (can we start calling him ``Paddy B"? -- Patrice just isn't going to cut it) stuck around for on-ice photos with lucky fans seconds after the victory was sealed.

``This was important to us," said Chara. ``We played the game we wanted to play. You could feel the energy in the whole arena after we scored that first goal."

The competition gets tougher tomorrow night when the unbeaten Buffalo Sabres come to town. But there's less pressure. The new Bruins took care of business in their ``must-win" opener.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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