It looks like somebody ate a whole pile of their Halloween candy yesterday. In a game packed with hits, fists, fights, and friction, the Bruins bashed out a 5-1 victory over the annoying Dallas Stars last night at TD Banknorth Garden.
Players bounced off each other with an overload of energy. The Bruins had a season-high 77 penalty minutes, topping their previous mark by 52 minutes. The Stars had 69 minutes (also a season high) and it was their agitators - Steve Ott and Sean Avery - who set the tone, pounding the Bruins into the boards with vicious conviction.
Ott was particularly provocative. When he dumped Stephane Yelle with a bruising hit in front of the Dallas bench early in the second period, Shawn Thornton dropped his gloves and swung a couple of left hooks at Ott. But Ott didn't fight back, and Thornton took a double minor for roughing. Later in the period, Ott came flying into the zone to knock Mark Stuart into the boards, and Bruins defenseman Shane Hnidy jumped in and tried to get Ott to fight, but the Dallas center skated away.
Ott and Avery were getting the results they wanted. The Bruins were in penalty trouble throughout the second period, when Dallas outshot them, 21-5. But the Bruins survived, and scrounged up the go-ahead goal on an opportunistic play by Patrice Bergeron.
By the third period, every Bruin wanted a piece of Ott, and it was defenseman Andrew Ference who got to him. Just after the Bruins took a 3-1 lead on Phil Kessel's wrist shot at 4:07, Ference landed a fierce hit on Ott that cracked the game open. Ference caught him in the neutral zone, drilling his shoulder into Ott's midsection to send him sprawling to the ice.
"Hits like that, you can't think about it five minutes before - it just happens when the opportunity arises," said Ference. "We have enough team toughness beyond just fighting, guys standing up for each other, guys that wouldn't typically be dropping the gloves can. So we're not worried about getting into games like that."
Seconds later, Avery found Ference along the boards behind goalie Tim Thomas and started swinging. Avery went after Ference, who stood up and squared off. When the bout was over, Ference skated calmly to the penalty box and gave the Garden fans a little wave.
"It was good applause, I guess. What do you do?" said Ference. "You can't clap back, that's too European, so I waved."
The Bruins were playing their first home game after a three-game swing through Western Canada that ended with a loss in Calgary.
"The guys were very intent on coming back after Calgary, where we had flat portions of the game - it was the opposite of tonight - where mentally we were just kind of lazy," Ference said. "It was that, coupled with the fact that we get to come home in front of our fans."
The Bruins finally got rid of their tormentors during a three-goal third period. Ott left the game at 11:37 after a shouting match with Stuart earned both players 10-minute misconducts. Avery left at 11:44, the aftermath of a melee that began when he hit Milan Lucic facefirst into the boards. The hit prompted Marc Savard to jump on top of Avery, punching furiously. When Matt Niskanen waded in to help out, Hnidy took him on. All were done for the night after the penalties were handed out.
"It's not bad what they do," said Ference about Ott and Avery's agitation. "Realistically, it probably helps us to just get involved. The difference between Calgary and here - we just got more emotionally involved. Obviously, that comes with being physically involved.
"It was a good game. Whether it's a bunch of fights or a lot of hits, when you win with a lot of emotion, it's great. It's exactly what this team wants."