Bruins Start Long Road to Lockout Recovery With Statement Win on Opening Night

Mike Rupp, Shawn ThorntonBOSTON — The evening started with Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs sitting in front of the media, offering up yet another apology for the third NHL lockout in 20 years.

And while all may not be forgotten on the part of hockey fans, Bruins fans left TD Garden on Saturday night with a reminder of just how special the game can be — you know, when it’s actually being played.

The B’s were welcomed back by a raucous sellout Garden crowd, and the home team did not disappoint on the way to a 3-1 opening night win over the New York Rangers.

Jacobs pledged that one of the only ways the Bruins could even begin to make up for the lockout and the shortened season would be to play hard and deliver a brand of hockey worth their fans’ attention.

“The best way for us to make it up you [the fans] is to play hard Bruins hockey and to win,” Jacobs said in his opening statement. “I said last year after our playoff exit that the Stanley Cup is on loan, and I really meant it.”

His players, the same players who found themselves locked out by Jacobs and the rest of the NHL owners just a few weeks ago, came out and made good on that promise, at least for one night. The B’s delivered a hallmark performance playing their trademark brand of physical hockey and making the most of opportunities.

Fan favorite Milan Lucic got the scoring going early with a hustle play through the neutral zone that led to the game’s first goal. Fourth-line skaters Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell got the crowd going with consecutive second-period fights. Tuukka Rask proved how easy the transition from Tim Thomas really could be with a stellar effort. And most importantly, the B’s got a top-notch effort from the top of the roster down to the bottom.

“The fans were awesome,” Lucic said. “When we did the pregame introductions, and all that type of stuff, it was great to see a full house. It was great to see the fans back. As a player, you couldn’t pick a better spot to play in [than] Boston with the fans that we have here.

“I personally want to thank them for everything that they did here tonight.”

Those Bruins fans proved that they had no lockout rust. Another rabid crowd that was loud and boisterous from the get-go served as a reminder of how difficult they can make it for opposing teams to come to Boston.

“We’ve always said that the fans are amazing here and again tonight they showed it. We know it’s been a long wait for them and for us as well, and I’m very happy being able to share that with them on the ice again at the Garden tonight, and I’m looking forward to the next games.”

But the Bruins played a hand in that, too. Head coach Claude Julien was beaming after the game, as he had a hard time finding any faults with the way his club played in their first game of the 2013 season.

The Bruins outworked the Rangers all night, with Julien doing his customary rolling of four lines, showing trust in each and every one of his skaters. The Bruins were first on loose pucks for much of the night, bringing the effort that, quite frankly, a hockey town like Boston deserves to see.

The real test, however, in making amends with fans — an arduous process that is far from complete — is being able to sustain this sort of effort.

It won’t be easy given the taxing schedule that awaits them, but if the B’s can show the effort they showed Saturday more often than not this season, that will go a long way in making a lot of fans forget about the last four months.

Yardbarker

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