Nashville's Craig Smith (15) works against Boston's Adam McQuaid (54) during the third period of Thursday's NHL hockey game in Boston. The Bruins won 4-3. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Credit: Michael Dwyer | AP

BOSTON — The Boston Bruins spent a lot of time this offseason with an eye looking toward the future.

In Thursday night’s season opener, they got a glimpse at just how bright it may be.

Jake DeBrusk had a goal and assist in his first NHL game, Charlie McAvoy added a goal and assist in his first regular-season appearance and the Boston Bruins beat the Nashville Predators 4-3.

David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand also scored, and David Krejci finished with three assists. Anders Bjork added an assist in his first NHL start.

“It’s awesome for the three of us (rookies) to kind of get that out of the way and now you can roll,” McAvoy said. “Points aren’t everything that’s for sure, but for offensive guys like Jake and Anders and myself…sometimes the hardest things to do is to get that zero out of there on the point column.”

Nashville tied the game 1-1 with a late goal in the first period by Viktor Arvidsson and got late goals in the third by Scott Hartnell and Filip Forsberg. But the defending Western Conference champions were outshot 32-29 on the night. Tuukka Rask had 26 saves for Boston. Pekka Rinne stopped 28 shots for the Predators.

Boston played without center Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and forward David Backes (illness). DeBrusk and Bjork started in their absences.

DeBrusk’s parents, grandmother, sister and girlfriend were in the stands Thursday. His father, Louie DeBrusk, was shown on the jumbotron wiping away tears after his son’s goal. The elder DeBrusk played 11 NHL seasons for four different teams.

“I’m gonna be talking to him about that. It’s a special moment,” DeBrusk said.

Predators coach Peter Laviolette said he took no solace from the way his team closed the gap in the final two minutes.

“They were quicker than us, they were hungrier,” he said. “It’s a good look in the mirror, I think.”

The Predators face the Pittsburgh Penguins in a Stanley Cup finals rematch on Saturday night.

The Boston Bruins went into the offseason focused on beefing up their roster with young players the front office hopes will one day become the core of the franchise.

They made their biggest investment in youth just before training camp by signing Pastrnak, a restricted free agent, to a six-year, $40 million contract.

That faith was on display Thursday with the scorer of the first three Bruins goal getting younger throughout the night. Pastrnak, who is 21 years old, scored the first. He was followed by DeBrusk (20) and McAvoy (19).

It started in the first period, less than a minute after Roman Josi (cross-check) and Matt Irwin (slashing) were sent to the penalty box. Pastrnak got open in front of the blue line and slipped a slap shot past Rinne to put Boston up 1-0.

McAvoy and Krejci assisted on the goal. For McAvoy, it marked his first NHL regular-season point. He appeared in six playoff games (three points) last season.

The Predators were sluggish for ost of the night on offense and didn’t take their first shot on goal until the 7:35 mark of the first period. They were outshot 12-8 in the period and were 0 for 2 on their power play chances.

But Arvidsson was in the right place at the right time late in the period, flipping in a deflection off a face-off past Rask to tie it up.

Boston announced during the game that Backes had been diagnosed with diverticulitis. The team said he will be re-evaluated in two weeks, but is expected to be out for at least 3-4 weeks.

The news comes at a bad time for the 33-year-old, who signed a five-year $30 million contract as an unrestricted free agent last season and was expected to anchor Boston’s third line. Backes battled injuries and off-ice distractions last season, contributing to a disappointing year that saw post just 38 points in 74 games.

Notes: F Noel Acciari left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury. Coach Bruce Cassidy said he doesn’t expect Acciari to be ready for Monday’s against Colorado. He said Bergeron is day to day. … Boston’s Adam McQuaid and Nashville’s Cody McLeod had the first fight of the season at the 9:04 mark of the first period. McLeod led the NHL with 19 fighting majors. … The Predators are 6-2-1 in their past nine openers.