It wasn’t the smoothest season opener in franchise history (90 years in 2014), but the Bruins can’t complain about the outcome as they defeated the Lightning, 3-1, at TD Garden Thursday night. Boston looked like a team that came pretty close to winning the Stanley Cup in June while Tampa Bay played the role of a lottery team that’s likely headed back there again next spring.
“The last five minutes of the second period and in the third period, that was more of the team that we wanted to be,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien.
Tuukka Rask made 32 saves and the Bruins had three different players score goals: Chris Kelly, Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron. Jarome Iginla, Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith all contributed to the win in their first game for the Black and Gold. After spending most of his career in Calgary, then the second half of last season in Pittsburgh, Iginla was excited to finally experience a home game in Boston.
“I’ve played a ton of games here," Iginla said. "It’s a tough building with the fans into it and yelling, so it was nice to be on the other side.”
The key to the win was Boston’s penalty killers, since not only did they not allow a goal in a total of 3:25 5-on-3 advantage for Tampa Bay (two separate power plays) but they also potted a pair of shorthanded goals as well. Kelly scored the first goal of the season on about the rarest of plays in hockey: a shorthanded penalty shot. He drove to the net, but was hooked by rookie defenseman Mark Barberio. Kelly claimed to have never taken a penalty shot in the NHL, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he faked around Anders Lindback (22 saves) and backhanded the puck in.
Shawn Thornton fought Pierre Cedric-Labrie in the first period, and Iginla threw down with Radko Gudas in the second period — quickly endearing himself to any sullen Bruins fans still upset that he chose the Penguins over them last trade deadline. Get over it! After Jordan Caron’s goal was negated by a quick whistle, the Lightning tied it later in the second period with a 2-on-1 finished off by Valtteri Filppula that Rask had no chance to stop. Lucic’s game-winner came with a minute left in the frame. Boston counterattacked and David Krejci dropped it off to Lucic, who roofed a wrister past Lindback.
Boston killed all 1:57 of a two-man advantage and Bergeron notched another unique goal for the Bruins early in the third period: a 3-on-5 shorthanded tally when his snap shot trickled past Lindback. The B’s know they’ll have to play much better to beat the Red Wings (who beat Buffalo 2-1 on Wednesday) on Saturday (7 p.m., NESN) back at the Garden — but this victory also showed that even when they’re far from their best, they can still handle many teams.
Before the contest had begun, reports surfaced that the Bruins signed steady defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to a four-year extension worth $16 million with a no-trade clause policy. Julien was happy to see one of his more unheralded players get rewarded by GM Peter Chiarelli.
“Peter’s done a great job at securing our core group," Julien said. "It’s nice to have some stability. Seidenberg deserved it for what he’s done since he’s been here.”
Ever diplomatic, Seidenberg maintained that the contract shouldn’t affect him.
“I still want to play just as well," he said. "It’s a big responsibility to perform like I can.”
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat reporter Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate