BOSTON — The Bruins spent their opening game giving all kinds of goodies to their fans to welcome them back from the long lockout.
They clearly had no intention, however, of giving away a game as they beat the New York Rangers, 3-1, in an Original Six battle, the opener for both teams, Saturday night.
“It was a great effort,” center Patrice Bergeron said his team struggled some but played a strong game after a brief training camp.
Tuukka Rask, the new No. 1 Boston goalie with Tim Thomas deciding not to play the final year of his contract, had a relatively easy night in his new role, stopping 20 shots.
“I thought we played a great game as a team, and made my life a lot easier,” Rask said, after the Bruins won their first opener since 2008. “It was a good game.
“We kind of looked like a midseason-form team there. It’s good to see. We just have to keep that up.”
Rask struggled in an open-to-the-public scrimmage earlier in the week, but looked sharp from the start Saturday night. It helped that he didn’t have to look THAT sharp.
Milan Lucic, Daniel Paille and defenseman Johnny Boychuk (credited, but it appeared to be tipped in by Bergeron) beat Henrik Lundqvist; the New York goalie coming in with a 1.53 career goals against average against the Bruins.
Brad Richards scored for the Rangers, who were outshot 34-21 and failed to cash in on a 90-second two-man advantage in the third period.
“They had maybe two shots and a couple of missed nets,” said Rask. “I thought we did a great job.”
Said Rangers coach John Tortorella: “We still have a chance when we end up with a 5-on-3 power play in a 2-1 game but we really came up empty there. We didn’t move the puck well. We were one-sided, we didn’t move the puck well and I don’t think (Rick) Nash touched it. We just did not make the right plays and it just didn’t work.”
Nash, playing his first game as a Ranger after coming over from Columbus in the big offseason deal, assisted on the New York goal and showed signs of how special he can be. He had two shots on goal but was a minus-1 in his debut.
“I think we came out to a slow start,” he said.
The Bruins took a 1-0 lead 14:14 into the first period when David Krejci, flying down the right wing, fired on Lundqvist, who gave up a long rebound into the slot. Lucic, playing his first period as a new first-time father, deposited the rebound for the first Boston goal of the season.
Boston was in control of the game and made it 2-0 when Gregory Campbell’s shot was tipped by Paille before going off the post, coming back and hitting Lundqvist and trickling in at 8:20 of the second period.
Richards got the Rangers on the board when he threw his own rebound toward the net from long distance and the shot surprised Rask and hit the top corner at 12:50; Rask picking the shot up a bit too late.
Then, a game that had been more than tame suddenly got rough with a pair of fights. The first was a heavyweight battle between New York’s Mike Rupp and Boston’s Shawn Thornton and there was another battle off the ensuing faceoff.
The Bruins thought they’d gone ahead 3-1 when Lundqvist made an unreal save on David Krejci, with his glove over the goal line. It was called no-goal on the ice and the call held up upon review. But Boychuk, celebrating his 29th birthday, scored through a screen at 8:13 of the third period; 1:06 after the review.
After the game, he knew there was a chance the goal would be changed (Lundqvist said it was deflected) and quipped, “Hey, it’s my birthday.”
NOTES: Defenseman Dougie Hamilton, only 19, made his Bruins debut and logged 13:40 of ice time. … Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, the Chairman of the NHL Board of Governors and therefore at the front of the prolonged lockout battle, met the media before the game and insisted, despite his hard-line stance, he didn’t want the lockout to continue. “This is a very successful franchise,” he said. “I don’t want this to shut down. Unfortunately, I play in a league with 30 teams. And when I step back and look at what’s going on with the broadest sense of the league, I’ve got to play a role constructively in that way. My selfish interest was definitely to keep this going within the parameters of the deal that was out there. But it doesn’t make sense for the league long term. We have a lot of people tired of this. A lot of people were promised that we’d try and right-size this, and I had to play a role in it.” … Chris Bourque, the son of Bruins legend Raymond Bourque, made his debut with the club, the Bourques the fifth father/son combination to play for the club. The younger Bourque, almost 27, was acquired in a trade from Washington. … All fans found a Bruins t-shirt on their seats for the opener and fans will get food vouchers to all five January home games. … The Bruins also did a “Shirts off our backs” promotion, normally saved for the final home game, giving away their game jerseys after the game. … The Rangers host the Penguins Sunday night before the Bruins hit Madison Square Garden Wednesday, after a Monday holiday matinee at home with Winnipeg. … The Bruins had a league-high 12 players play overseas, the Rangers five.