Last night, the Bruins could have treated their fans to a great event.
The final grade: Very good.
“We wanted to get that win on a special night like tonight,’’ Patrice Bergeron said after the 2-1 season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Flyers . “But we couldn’t do it.’’
Game No. 1 of 2011-12 had little to do with this year. Appropriately, it was one final look back at 2010-11. One unforgettable twirl around home ice with the Stanley Cup over their heads. One final look at Mark Recchi in a Bruins uniform. One last stick salute to a job well done and a team that will never be forgotten. The first glimpse of a new championship banner raised to the TD Garden roof.
So in hindsight, consider last night’s loss an acceptable and perhaps expected mulligan.
“We all knew it was going to be really emotional and we had to try to stay emotionally involved, still thinking about preparing for a game right after it,’’ said Dennis Seidenberg. “That was the tough part. I think we came out great. We just kind of flattened out toward the second half of the first period. It took us all the way until the third to get back to our game, get pucks to the net, and back to our skating game.’’
After storming the Flyers early in the first period, the Bruins tailed off, lost their legs, and failed to capitalize on the adrenaline that had been coursing through them early in the night.
“The surge at the start was pretty good,’’ said Andrew Ference. “I think there was energy and good puck movement. It was pretty good hockey. All but the finishing part as far as putting pucks on net. As good as we started the game, we hardly had any shots in the first period.’’
The Flyers scored twice in a 47-second span in the first period to wipe out a 1-0 deficit. At 18:43 of the first, Nathan Horton went to the penalty box for slashing. Twenty-seven seconds later, after some Boston penalty-killers got caught up ice, Jaromir Jagr threaded a pass to Claude Giroux in the neutral zone.
With the Bruins’ gap too loose because of how far the forwards had gone the wrong way, Giroux hurtled into the offensive zone. He picked his way past Zdeno Chara, faked a backhand on Tim Thomas, then tucked a forehand shot past the netminder at 19:10. Jagr got an assist for his 1,600th NHL point.
“First one was my fault,’’ said Brad Marchand. “I didn’t stay ahead of my guy. He was able to get a lot of speed. I kind of left the D stranded there.’’
With 2.4 seconds remaining in the first, the Flyers scored the winning goal. Thomas booted out an Andrej Meszaros point shot. But Jakub Voracek was in position in the slot to track down the rebound and beat Thomas (27 saves).
Until the third, the Bruins didn’t have any pushback in their game. Their best chance to tie the game came halfway through the final period, after Wayne Simmonds was sent off for hooking. On the following power play, David Krejci spotted Horton open at the far post. Ilya Bryzgalov was down and out. Horton had all kinds of room upstairs. But Kimmo Timonen recovered and made a stick save on Horton’s tying bid at 10:55 of the third.
“In the third, we finally picked it up,’’ Chara said. “We had some great opportunities and scoring chances. We just didn’t put them in.’’
As expected, the Bruins came out roaring following their banner-raising ceremony. The power play, one of their few bugaboos last year, was perfect after one opportunity. After Zac Rinaldo was called for holding the stick at 9:00 of the first, Marchand gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
Tyler Seguin started the play in the defensive zone. From behind the Boston blue line, Seguin spotted Marchand streaking down left wing. After taking a tape-to-tape pass from Seguin, an in-stride Marchand blew past Timonen and attacked Bryzgalov. Marchand faked forehand, pulled the puck to his backhand, and slid a shot five-hole on Bryzgalov at 9:42.
But the Philly netminder bricked up the net for the rest of the night. Bryzgalov, considered the puck-stopping salve the Flyers have been without for seemingly generations, turned back 22 pucks to earn his first win for his new club.
Tomorrow, when the Lightning visit the Garden for their first visit since the Eastern Conference finals, life should be back to normal for the Bruins. Their championship rings, hauled to the Boston Harbor Hotel via armored truck on Tuesday, should be tucked away in safe deposit boxes. The 2010-11 banner is in place. The Cup is again up for grabs, no longer the Bruins’ property.
At last, things can proceed as usual.
“If you go to a party and stay until 4 or for two or three days, after a while you get tired of it, right?’’ asked coach Claude Julien with a smile. “The bottles of champagne are empty, so it’s time to go home. I think that’s how we feel. We had a great time this summer. We had some great experiences. Right now, we’d like to re-do this. There’s a lot of work and things that have to come into play before that. It’s time to turn the page.’’