Claude Julien's first regular-season game behind the Boston bench came in Dallas back on Oct. 5, 2007. The Stars beat the Bruins 4-1 that night, and Julien's boys have been making Dallas pay for spoiling his Bruins debut ever since.
Boston has pounded the Stars in each of their three meetings since, winning all three by a combined 14-4 count. The Bruins have also done a lot of more literal pounding in those contests. Despite the rarity of the matchups between the clubs from separate conferences, those meetings have produced more than their share of fireworks.
The Bruins' 5-1 win at the Garden on Nov. 1, 2008 featured 146 combined penalty minutes, with the series of wild melees and the Bruins' willingness to stand up for each other widely viewed as the catalyst for Boston's climb to the top of the standings that season. The Bruins went 24-2-1 over their next 27 games and never looked back, finishing first in the East with 116 points, their highest point total since 1972.
The bulk of those battles took place in the third period, with all three fights and all seven misconducts accumulated that night handed out in the final frame. Things didn't take quite so long to get going during Dallas' next visit to the Garden, when three separate fights broke out in the first four seconds of Boston's 6-3 win on Feb. 3, 2011.
Gregory Campbell fought Steve Ott one second in, Shawn Thornton knocked Krys Barch out of action with a broken orbital bone at the two-second mark and Adam McQuaid decked Brian Sutherby at four seconds. Andrew Ference sent another Star to the trainer's room when he broke Adam Burish's orbital bone at 3:51 of the first, while Daniel Paille ended up with a four-game suspension for a head shot on Raymond Sawada later in the game.
Once again, that brawl-filled contest was looked upon by the Bruins as a key moment in bringing their team came together, contributing to the chemistry and camaraderie that eventually helped them hoist the Cup for the first time in 39 years.
On Saturday, the Bruins and Stars will meet again, this time in Dallas. Will they end the year with a bang, producing more fireworks to make New Year's Eve look more like the Fourth of July?
Those expecting another night of triple-digit penalty minutes may be disappointed. For one thing, the games in Dallas haven't been quite as wild as the matchups on Garden ice. Boston's last trip to Texas didn't produce a single fight as the Bruins took a 3-0 decision on Oct. 16, 2009, though the previous visit did feature Thornton and Milan Lucic each getting involved in their first fights as Bruins one second apart in that 2007-08 season opener.
The current Stars roster also lacks the firepower to match Boston with the gloves off. While the Bruins are behind their pace of a year ago when they finished second in the NHL with 71 fights, they are still third in the league this season with 25 fighting majors in 34 games (a pace for 60.3 over a full 82-game season).
Dallas, meanwhile, is just 17th in the league with 14 fights through 36 games (a full-season pace of just 31.8 fights). They don't have a heavyweight now that Barch, who dropped the gloves with Thornton in each of those fight-filled games in Boston, is with Florida, where he's continued the rivalry with his former AHL teammate by taking on Thornton twice this month.
Ott is still around, and still stirring up trouble, most recently tangling with Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette in the tunnel as the Stars and Flyers headed to their locker rooms between periods. But Ott is a little better behaved on the ice without his backup, and Dallas doesn't have much muscle to match Thornton, McQuaid, Lucic, Campbell and Co., especially with captain Brenden Morrow and hard-nosed defenseman Sheldon Souray both sidelined with injuries.
Dallas has been especially quiet of late, with just one fight in its last seven games. The Stars have had no fights in 24 of their 36 games this season and had more than one fight in just one game all year. The Bruins, meanwhile, have had 12 fights in their last 11 games, including McQuaid's beatdown of Raffi Torres after the Coyotes forward delivered a dirty head shot on Ference in Phoenix on Wednesday.
The Bruins and Stars might not add to their history of hostilities on Saturday, but the penalty box attendants would be well advised to prepare for a busy night just in case. These clubs have combined for nine fights in their last four meetings.
Things were much calmer before that. There were just seven fights in the previous 18 games after the Stars moved from Minnesota to Dallas in 1993. Twelve of those games had no fights at all, and just one had multiple bouts when Krzysztof Oliwa took on a pair of former Bruins in Aaron Downey and Rob DiMaio on Feb. 25, 2003.
Of course, there were some nasty moments before the Stars moved south. John Wensink famously challenged the Minnesota bench after beating up Alex Pirus on Dec. 1, 1977, but got no takers for his offer. Perhaps with that embarrassment still weighing on the North Stars' psyche, the clubs combined for an NHL-record 406 penalty minutes when they clashed at the old Garden on Feb. 26, 1981.
The Bruins won that game 5-1, just as they prevailed 4-2 the night Wensink provided such an indelible image for the ages. Then, as now, the Bruins usually came out on top when things got rough. So maybe it would be best for the Bruins to try to make sure the bad blood continues to flow. After all, Saturday night's alright for fighting, especially when the Bruins and Stars get together.
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