"I actually had a little bit of butterflies," Khudobin said. "I thought they were going to come a little earlier, but they came right before the first period. But I battled them. It's all right."
Khudobin was more than all right in his Bruins debut. He stopped 44 of the 45 shots he faced to lead Boston's shorthanded squad to a 3-1 victory over the Senators Thursday night in Ottawa.
"He was outstanding," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "He was without a doubt our best player and he kept us in the game when we needed him to keep us in the game. He made some great saves, and we certainly gave him a chance to prove himself. That's for sure. He faced a lot of shots."
The shots came early and often. Ottawa outshot the Bruins 17-7 in the opening period, but Boston went into the first intermission up 1-0 thanks largely to Khudobin's efforts.
"It's always good when you have a couple good shots," Khudobin said. "You feel the puck and you just start playing. And we scored first, so that helped a little bit too, my confidence went up."
The Senators kept up the pressure with 17 more shots in the second, then 11 in the third when the Bruins clung to a one-goal lead until Milan Lucic scored an insurance tally with 4:33 left. But through it all, Khudobin was unfazed.
He continued his remarkable run of success at the NHL level. Including the six games he played for Minnesota in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, Khudobin is now 5-1-0 with a 1.32 GAA and a .961 save percentage in the NHL.
Compare that to Khudobin's more modest numbers in the American Hockey League, where he is just 68-62-11 with a 2.53 GAA and a .912 save percentage, including a 21-19-3 record with a 2.61 GAA and a .919 save percentage this season in Providence. Obviously, playing in the best league in the world brings out the best in the 25-year-old native of Kazakhstan.
"I wouldn't say it's easier," Khudobin said of playing in the NHL vs. the AHL. "But everyone knows their job and every player on the ice knows what they need to do to help the team to get the win, so I think it's a little bit easier."
Khudobin did have plenty of help on Thursday. Despite Zdeno Chara getting the night off and Johnny Boychuk being sidelined with a knee injury, the Bruins blocked 22 shots in front of Khudobin. Greg Zanon had 10 of those himself, more than the eight the entire Ottawa team combined for. Zanon also scored his first goal as a Bruin, which turned out to be the game-winner, while rookie Torey Krug collected his first NHL point with an assist and added three blocked shots of his own in his second game with Boston.
"We maybe spent a little more time in our own end than we normally do, but when you've got a couple of your D's that log a lot of minutes in Boychuk and Chara out, those things are going to happen," Julien said. "We realized how important Zee is to our lineup and Johnny too, but those kinds of things are great for other players to step up. I thought Krug played an unbelievable game. You could see he felt a lot more comfortable and I really liked the way he handled himself."
The Bruins also had to like how Khudobin handled himself, no matter how easy he may have felt it was.
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