It didn’t take long for the Bruins to get on the board Thursday night.
Less than two minutes into Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, defenseman Steven Kampfer fired the puck past Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Peter Mrazek to ignite the sellout TD Garden crowd and cue a sea of waving yellow rally towels.
“It was awesome,’’ Kampfer said following Boston’s 5-2 victory. “The fans here are awesome, so just to hear the crowd after was awesome. You’re just trying to jumpstart the team, and hopefully, they keep it rolling out there.’’
The spectacular sequence began in Carolina’s offensive zone, where Bruins left wing Marcus Johansson hustled to knock the puck away from Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk. After gaining possession, Johansson dished a flawless behind-the-back pass to an open Kampfer, who buried it home.
“[Steven] was great,’’ said netminder Tuukka Rask, who finished with 31 saves. “It’s not easy when you’re not playing. He’s a veteran guy. He stepped in and scored, and made solid plays all game.’’
The score, which gave the B’s an early 1-0 edge that they ultimately relinquished not even a minute later, was Kampfer’s first-ever postseason goal in his second career postseason appearance. The 30-year-old Michigan native got the nod Thursday as a replacement for starter Charlie McAvoy, who was serving a one-game suspension for his hit on Columbus Blue Jackets right winger Josh Anderson in Game 6 of Boston’s previous series.
Although Kampfer hadn’t received any ice time since his playoff debut almost a month ago in Game 1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he said he was focused on keeping his mind in the moment and making the most of the opportunity. McAvoy will be available to return for Game 2 on Sunday.
“Your first couple shifts you either want to get a hit or you want to make a play,’’ Kampfer said. “I was fortunate that was my first shift of the game. I got to make a play, so it was nice. But when it’s all said and done, you just want to help the team win. That was the end goal today.’’
Kampfer actually started his career with the Bruins as a 22-year-old rookie during the team’s 2011 Stanley Cup run. Although he didn’t dress for any of the postseason — his name wasn’t engraved on the Cup — the experience offered lasting lessons about the level of preparation that postseason hockey demands.
While Thursday’s goal certainly meant a lot to Kampfer, who was traded back to the Bruins from the New York Rangers in September, coach Bruce Cassidy stressed its value to the rest of the team as well.
“I think it means just as much to the rest of the guys to see, ‘Hey, this guy hasn’t played in a while, he’s ready, he’s on time, he catches the pass, he’s not flustered, he zips it in a good spot,’’’ Cassidy said. “I think it means just as much for the group to know it’s ‘next man up.’ I mean, the expression around Boston has been here for a while, and we’re certainly buying into it.’’
Kampfer became the 17th player to score a goal for the Bruins this postseason — their highest total since the 1990 Stanley Cup run.
“Couldn’t care less about who scores and who does what, as long as we get it done together,’’ Johansson said. “That’s the main thing. I think that’s one of the strengths of this team that we have 20 guys that can do it, and I think we’ve shown that more than once.’’