BOSTON — Twelve different Bruins collected points in Thursday's rout of Tampa Bay, but it was one of the handful of players who didn't get on the scoresheet who was the real story in this one.
Marc Savard didn't earn any of the 18 points divvied up in Boston's 8-1 victory, but he was more than content just to have his name back on a lineup card for the first time in more than six months. Savard was activated from long-term injured reserve before the game and made his season debut after a long road back from post-concussion syndrome symptoms.
"It was great to be back," said Savard. "The fans were fantastic. I got a little emotional there. It was kind of tough to go out on that [first] shift."
Savard's first shift came 2:27 into the game, and he was greeted by a standing ovation from the sellout crowd at the Garden. The cheers turned to boos seconds later though, as the Boston faithful didn't take kindly to the linesman tossing Savard out of the first faceoff he was about to take.
"I think I got excited," said Savard. "I felt like I had water in my eyes. I couldn't see anyways, so I tried to, I don't know, maybe I just jumped the gun a little early, but the crowd gave them a nice boo, so that was pretty neat."
It was also neat when Savard was greeted by a welcome back message on the scoreboard during a TV timeout later in the first. That brought about another standing ovation, and Savard stood on the bench and raised his stick in a salute back to the fans.
"I was really hoping I would play today because I really wanted to play in front of the [Boston] fans," said Savard.
"It's been a long road, that's for sure," added Savard. "And I owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people. Everybody that's helped me along the way, they don't understand how much they've helped me. And the fans too, and tonight just topped it all off. They were wonderful and that was one of the reasons I chose to stay here."
Savard's teammates also appreciated having the playmaking center back on the ice. And while he didn't factor into any of the club's season-high eight goals, they did believe his presence helped spark the offensive outburst.
"It was good to see him back, obviously," said fellow center Patrice Bergeron. "He's such a great player and a big part of our team that when you see him being back like that it's always special and I think everyone wanted to get that win for him."
Michael Ryder, who played on a line with Savard and rookie Tyler Seguin, agreed.
"He's a leader on this team and he's one of the guys that talks in the room and gets guys going," said Ryder. "It was good to have him back. He's been through a lot and to have him back in the lineup is huge. It gives us that extra little boost."
And Savard did try to take a little credit for the avalanche of goals.
"I think that's the first eight goals the team has scored that I haven't had anything on it, but I kept telling Claude [Julien] I was a presence tonight," said Savard with his trademark smile back plastered across his face. "I felt good, obviously had some shifts where I felt a little tired and as the battles wore on? [But] it was great to be back."
Savard finished with one shot in 15:45 spread over 21 shifts, with 2:03 coming on the power play.
"It's been six months, so it's been a long time and I was shaking off a bit of rust," said Savard. "But I felt like I made some good plays, did some stuff I can build off. There's things I can still work on obviously."
Controlling his emotions will be one thing to work on, as he struggled to contain his excitement once he learned he would be playing in the afternoon.
"After the pre-game skate I talked with Peter [Chiarelli] and Claude and they gave me the green light," said Savard. "Obviously I didn't sleep much today. I tried not to walk around the room when I got here, but I felt like I was just flying around the room, kind of burning energy that I didn't want to burn. But I was just so excited. I felt like a little kid again. It was great."
And Tim Thomas did his best to settle him down before the game. Thomas, who traditionally leads the team out onto the ice for warm-ups when he's starting in net, instead stepped aside to let Savard jump on first. The rest of the team stayed back in the hallway, leaving Savard to take the ice all by himself in his first time back in uniform this season.
"It was just a joke," said Thomas. "Hopefully I helped Savvy to relax a little bit because you are probably a little bit nervous after a long time like that and that was hopefully a way to get the jitters out."
It worked, as Savard went on to have a memorable night at the Garden.
"I got a little tired, but I really enjoyed myself tonight," said Savard. "I had a smile on the bench, had a lot of fun."
Everyone had a little more fun with Savard back on the bench.