Excitement was in the air on Causeway Street as the boys returned to the ice.
In one of the more anticipated seasons in recent memory, the Boston Bruins, fresh off their second Stanley Cup appearance in three years, got off to a good start in Game 1 of 82 in the 2013-14 campaign against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After struggling for most of last season, Chris Kelly got the season off on the right note. The nine-year veteran drew a penalty shot after a shorthanded breakaway midway through the first. On that penalty shot, Kelly hit the highlight reels with a deke that would’ve made Gordon Bombay proud and slid one past Anders Lindback for the first goal of the season.
Kelly’s first career penalty shot – and first career goal on the penalty shot – sparked the Bruins en route to a 3-1 victory in front of the 166th consecutive sellout crowd of 17,565 at the TD Garden.
“I don’t recall any season starting like that,” Kelly said with a smile after the victory. “I was lucky to get it.”
Here are three takeaways from the B’s win against their new Atlantic Divsion foes.
Kelly’s goal comes at the right time
Not only did his goal set the tone, but Kelly also got a little confidence boost.
After struggling to find the net for most of the lockout shortened season – where he missed a few weeks with a tibia injury – Kelly turned things around during the Stanley Cup Final. On Thursday, the veteran picked up right where he left off.
Head coach Claude Julien stated that Kelly was one of the best players on the ice Thursday night, and it sure showed.
“I think he had a really good camp. It showed in camp and I think it showed during the finals last year,” said the seventh-year coach. “Coming off that injury [last year], I think he really had a tough time trying to find his game and he certainly wasn’t skating the way we knew he could. But he’s been really good since last year’s finals, and again tonight. So its good to see him play that well, because it’s certainly going to help that third line.”
Jordan Caron with a strong performance
He was robbed in the second period of a goal due to a quick whistle. But that didn’t stop Jordan Caron from chipping in Thursday night.
Despite being held off the scoresheet, Caron made the most of his 10:21 of ice time. The former first round pick drove hard to the net, giving Lindback and the Lightning defense on their heels all night.
For someone who’s had his share of inconsistencies throughout his career, a performance like this was well needed for Caron. And perhaps he will see more ice time, even when Carl Soderberg returns from injury.
“I think I had a good game,” Caron said about his performance. “We could’ve had a few goals and I had some chances. Obviously they didn’t go in tonight, but I think we did a good job tonight.”
He’s faced adversity in the last year and he barely made the 23-man roster out of camp. But in the season opener, Caron made a case that he can stay with the big club, at least for the time being.
Momentum shifts come at needed times
It’s no secret that the Bruins were inconsistent at certain points. But, when it mattered most, they shifted momentum on their side.
With Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis on the ice, the Bolts had a golden opportunity to tie things up at 1-1 during a two-man advantage. But behind Tuukka Rask (32 saves) and Dennis Seidenberg (fresh off signing a four-year contract extension), the B’s held tight and kept a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes. Late in the second, with the game tied at 1-1, and momentum on Tampa’s side, Milan Lucic fired a nifty shot past Lindback to give the Black and Gold a needed 2-1 lead heading into intermission.
That all led to the third, when the Bolts had another 5-on-3 opportunity when Shawn Thornton (slashing) and Zdeno Chara (interference) served penalties at the 2:03 and 2:06 marks, respectively. Just 26 seconds later, Matt Carle was called for interference, setting up Patrice Bergeron’s shorthanded tally at 4:02 to give the B’s some distance.
“My goal and then the 5-on-3…Tuukka keeps us in there and the penalty killers do a great job taking Stamkos away,” Lucic said about the momentum shifts. “Great job by the penalty killers, great job by Tuukka and I think they’re the biggest reason why we came out and won this game tonight.”
They may not have played their best at times, but a 1-0 start is always a good sign in The Hub of Hockey.