BOSTON — The Bruins entered the 2015-16 season with a revamped roster, a new general manager and question marks galore.
But after Thursday night’s season-opening matchup with the Winnipeg Jets, one fact was abundantly clear: Boston really misses its captain.
With an upper body injury rendering Zdeno Chara unavailable, the Bruins struggled mightily on the defensive end throughout the final 40 minutes of the contest. Winnipeg, after being held scoreless in the first period, scored three goals in the second and three more in the third en route to a 6-2 victory at TD Garden.
Kevan Miller and Zac Rinaldo dished out the physicality in the opening minutes, with the latter playing his agitator role to a T. Rinaldo absorbed a number of rough checks, including a questionable one from former Bruin Mark Stuart that knocked his helmet, before drawing a trip from Adam Lowry just 1:54 into the game.
The Bruins pelted Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec throughout the ensuing power play. Pavelec held strong for those two minutes, but he could not keep Boston off the board for long.
David Pastrnak pilfered the puck from Ben Chiarot behind the Winnipeg net, and when Chiarot couldn’t regather it on the doorstep, David Krejci took advantage. The Bruins center controlled the loose puck and made one move before backhanding it past Pavelec for Boston’s first goal of the season.
The line of Pastrnak, Krejci and Matt Beleskey created a number of chances in the first, as did the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Loui Eriksson unit.
The period ended with a full-team scuffle kicked off by Alexander Burmistrov’s illegal check to Bergeron’s head. Bergeron went after the Jets center, and three players wound up in the penalty box.
Boston dominated possession in the first against a sluggish Winnipeg squad and owned a 14-6 edge in shots on goal at intermission.
Tuukka Rask began the second by robbing Andrew Ladd on a breakaway, but the Jets quickly got to work dirtying the goaltender’s clean sheet.
Mark Scheifele rifled the equalizer past Rask at the 5:26 mark of the frame, and Blake Wheeler took advantage of a brutal Matt Irwin giveaway four minutes later to pot Winnipeg’s second goal. Ladd picked Irwin’s pocket behind the Boston net and fed a wide-open Wheeler in front for the score.
The second period was not the best for the Bruins’ youth-laden blue line, which looked far shakier than it did in the first.
Winnipeg added another with less than three minutes remaining in the frame, once again taking advantage of a Bruins defensive lapse. Zach Trotman lost track of Lowry in front of Rask, giving the Jets winger plenty of time to receive a cross-ice pass from Chiarot and find Drew Stafford, who’d shaken Irwin, for the easy goal.
The Bruins pulled to within one just 85 seconds into the final period, with Pastrnak doing the honors. The 19-year-old winger received a pass from Beleskey and sent an absolute laser beam over Pavelec’s right shoulder.
Miller was credited with the secondary assist.
The Bruins’ good fortune was short-lived, however. Chris Thorburn scored for the Jets less than four minutes later to extend the cushion back to two goals. Nicolas Petan then made it 5-2 when he redirected in an Andrew Copp shot while battling Torey Krug for possession in front of Rask.
Burmistrov added an empty-netter to close out the scoring.
The Bergeron line generated the most offense for the Bruins, accounting for 10 of Boston’s 31 total shots. Rask finished with 25 saves.
The Bruins welcome their greatest rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, to TD Garden on Saturday night for the first and only time this season.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask during a game against Winnipeg.