First time is exciting, even in loss

By Barbara Matson
Globe Correspondent / April 15, 2011

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Gregory Campbell waited a long time for this.

Playing his sixth full year of NHL hockey, and first for the Bruins, Campbell played in his first playoff game last night. So did Nathan Horton, who spent six fruitless seasons with the Panthers, never getting a chance at the playoffs.

It was everything they expected — the adrenaline rush as they took the ice before a roaring sold-out crowd at TD Garden, the thrill that was difficult to tamp down as a wide-eyed Horton looked around the arena during the national anthems, drinking in an experience he had long imagined.

But the playoff rookies learned about postseason thrills and chills at the same time.

The Bruins lost their home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinals, dropping a 2-0 decision to the Canadiens in the opener. The Bruins outshot their longtime rivals, 31-20, but couldn’t get anything past Canadiens goalie Carey Price. Boos rained down on the Bruins as time ran out on a disappointing debut.

“Well, we haven’t scored,’’ Horton said. “That’s the way fans are: They wanted us to win so bad, just like we did.’’

“The fans were awesome, especially at the start when we came out,’’ said Campbell, whose last playoff experience was in junior hockey for the 2003 Kitchener Rangers. “It was exciting. I haven’t played a game like that, obviously, in a while. Once you get past the adrenaline, the game settles in and it starts to get comfortable and you can play your game. But I’m not going to lie, it was exciting. There was a lot of energy out there.’’

It also was the first playoff experience for rookie Brad Marchand, who darted across the ice and created a handful of opportunities, landing a team-high six shots.

“It’s frustrating when you get opportunities and they don’t go in,’’ said Marchand, who couldn’t cash in a first-period breakaway, set up by Tomas Kaberle, with the Bruins on the power play. “I tried to pull it over to my backhand and go upstairs. But I kind of missed my shot. I rushed it a bit. I should have tried to stop it and I would have had a wide-open net.’’

Horton, who had three of the four shots landed by the top line that also includes David Krejci and Milan Lucic, found the playoff ice a little more crowded.

“It’s really tight,’’ Horton said. “You don’t get too much and you’re battling for that open space and that extra little bit. It’s definitely a different style and you have to work a little bit harder.’’

The game was not three minutes old when the Canadiens took the lead on the first of Brian Gionta’s two goals, stifling the crowd.

“That was big for them,’’ said Marchand. “We have a big atmosphere and they really wanted to come in and get that first one.’’

The rest of the game consisted of layer after layer of frustration for the Bruins as they came at the Canadiens in wave after wave, but were turned back every time.

“I think right now everybody is chomping at the bit to get back out there,’’ said Campbell. “I think you have to step back a little bit, maybe make some adjustments here and there, and not get too overexcited. We’re prepared for a long series.

“We’ll step back here tomorrow and readjust,’’ added Campbell, already sounding like a playoff veteran. “Saturday’s a new day and Game 2 is a new game. You have to have a short-term memory in the playoffs.’’

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