The Stars paid a rare visit to Boston back on Nov. 1, 2008, and the result was a 5-1 victory for the Bruins. But the real story was the fireworks ignited by the antics of Dallas agitators Steve Ott and Sean Avery, which led to 146 penalty minutes.
The parade to the penalty box included six fighting majors, seven misconducts, six roughing minors, five more minors for unsportsmanlike conduct and one seemingly endless ovation from the Garden faithful for the way the Bruins stuck together and stood up for each other en route to a resounding victory.
"This was the type of game that we needed at home," Bruins coach Claude Julien said that night. "We needed to have some life in our game and they created it. We've got great team chemistry in there and the guys are all, as you saw tonight, they all pull for each other and they'll go to battle for each other. That's the important part and that's a big part of having a highly successful hockey club."
It certainly was that year. That victory was the first of five straight for the Bruins. And that was just the beginning. The Bruins went 24-2-1 over the next 27 games and 34-5-3 over the next 42 as they soared to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Boston earned the top seed in the playoffs that year after finishing with 116 points, the most since the 1971-72 squad earned 119 en route to the franchise's last Stanley Cup. And nearly to a man, the Bruins pointed to that November night of mayhem against the Stars as the key point when that team came together, with the bonds forged a key to their success the rest of the season.
"The guys kind of took that game as a momentum-builder," Patrice Bergeron said later that season. "I thought we really played as a team and we all stepped up for each other and it was a great game."
That kind of camaraderie was largely absent last season, most notably in the lack of response to Matt Cooke's cheap shot on Marc Savard. But the Bruins have gotten back to that all-for-one style a bit this season, with another fight-filled game against Atlanta on Dec. 23 sparking Boston's current run.
After coming out flat in a 3-0 loss to Anaheim three days earlier, Shawn Thornton set the tone against the Thrashers with a fight off the opening faceoff, then everyone on the ice got involved late in the third following Freddy Meyer's high hit on Milan Lucic. Since that game, the Bruins have gone 12-4-3 and taken over the lead in the Northeast Division.
It's not quite as dramatic a roll as what followed the brawls with Dallas, but the Bruins might just have a chance to build on it as the Stars return to Boston for the first time since that 2008 donnybrook on Tuesday.
Many of the characters have changed for this sequel. Eleven players from the Bruins' roster that night are no longer with the club, and 11 Stars have moved on as well, including Avery. But Ott remains, as do respective enforcers Thornton and Krys Barch, who dropped the gloves with each other that night.
The penalty box attendants aren't likely to be anywhere near as busy in this one, but there might still be some flickering embers left from that inferno, and at the very least a return visit from the Stars should serve as a reminder of the kind of physical style and camaraderie the Bruins need to play with to be successful.
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