The Bruins have struggled out of the gates in recent contests, with opponents scoring the first goal in each of the previous five games. Boston won just one of those games, and that took an almost herculean five-goal rally in the third period in Pittsburgh.
But when the Bruins strike first, it's a completely different story. Boston entered the night 6-0-0 when scoring first. And after Michael Ryder staked the Bruins to a 1-0 lead at 15:26 of the opening period, the Bruins made sure they extended that mark to 7-0-0 as they posted a 3-0 victory against New Jersey to snap a two-game losing streak.
"That first goal, we've been saying it over and over again, that first goal is huge," said Bruins forward Blake Wheeler, who provided the third goal 43 seconds into the third period. "It changes the game dramatically. It makes them play into your hands a lot more. You can kind of focus more on the little things defensively. We saw it out there. We were able to squeeze them a bit more and kind of put it out of reach from there."
But getting to that early lead wasn't easy. Tim Thomas finished with 28 saves for his fourth shutout in 11 starts, but first he had to weather a storm of shots in the opening minute.
"Yeah, it could be tough, or looking back, it actually could help get me into the game," said Thomas of the early test. "And it happened so quick that I didn't have time to think about it. I didn't have time to think, 'Is this really happening in the first minute of the game?' It was just like, 'I got to find some way to stop this thing.'"
And how did Thomas stop the bids of Patrik Elias and Mattias Tedenby? With his usual unorthodox style of course, as Thomas actually stopped Tedenby's bid while the Bruins netminder was facing the net with his back to the shooter.
"The backwards butterfly?" said Thomas of that particular maneuver. "Yeah, I practice that in practice sometimes. I could see it. I could see what he was doing with it, so, it's not too often I give myself a pat on the back for a save, and I do on that one. It felt good to do something in a game that I do quite regularly in practice, actually."
The Bruins don't work on dropping the gloves in practice, but an early scrap by defenseman Adam McQuaid helped set the tone for Boston's strong start.
"I think he did a great job," said fellow blueliner Mark Stuart. "I think we were all into the game right away, but then to have that [fight], I think that got us going even more. I think that was definitely part of our good start. You've got to give him credit for helping us come out with our first goal."
McQuaid admitted that he was motivated by the club's first-period struggles when he sought out Devils forward Rod Pelley at center ice 3:05 into the game.
"We've been kind of having some slow starts as of late," said McQuaid. "It was my first shift and just thought I would get the guys going get the crowd excited."
The scrap was nearly over before it really got going, as McQuaid slipped after throwing a few punches. But the young defenseman pleaded with the linesmen not to step in, and the bout was allowed to continue. And continue it did, as the two players traded scores of blows to the delight of the sellout crowd of 17,565.
"I told them afterward 'good job' for not getting in there," said McQuaid. "It was also good of [Pelley] to let me get up. So it was good on his part and also on the linesmen's part to stay out. I think they knew that things were only getting started there."
The Bruins were only starting too. Ryder converted from down low on the left side on a 5-on-3 advantage later in the first to give Boston a lead it never relinquished. Instead, they padded it with two goals at exactly 43 seconds of the next two periods, with Nathan Horton striking in the second and Wheeler scoring in the third.
"That's something that we really wanted to do better, I guess," said Julien. "It's been a while since we've really had a good start and managed to score the first goal and that was part of our game plan tonight, no doubt. The longer you let the other team in the game, the better chance they have of winning, and that's what teams that go on the road games want to do. They want to stay in it as long as they can. So it was important for us to grab that lead. We seemed to be a team that plays better with the lead, obviously, and seem to build on it and protect it well. So it's nice to see us get that first goal."