BOSTON – The Boston Bruins changed very little of their personnel heading into the 2012-13 season.
In their 3-1 win against the New York Rangers Saturday night at TD Garden, the Bruins also showed they haven't changed their formula for winning.
With balanced scoring and solid goaltending, Boston started off the shortened season on the right foot. Tuukka Rask started the post-Tim Thomas era with 20 saves, while Milan Lucic, Gregory Campbell and Johnny Boychuk found the back of the net.
"That's also one of the things we tried to touch up on this week of practice, is go over our systems again and getting back to being defensively sound and having those good, quick breakouts, and even being quick in the neutral zone," Lucic said. "So it was great to see that everyone was fired up for this game, especially against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and all of the NHL, and it was good to see that we rose to the occasion."
Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves in the loss for the Rangers. Newly acquired sniper Rick Nash set up the Rangers' lone goal, which Brad Richards scored 12:50 into the second period to cut the Bruins' lead to 2-1.
However, it was a long, difficult night for Richards and Nash, who were trying to get their chemistry right while going head-to-head with Boston's gargantuan defenseman Zdeno Chara.
"It's also not a lot of ice with Chara playing in front of him the whole night. That's a tough matchup to play your first game ever with somebody," Richards said. "But on the goal we scored he shows you what he can do with his body and a few times down low, so we'll get to know his tendencies and there's going to be a lot of loose pucks when he does that stuff because he draws a lot of bodies. So that's something that I've got to pick up on and, like I said, it's a good matchup the first night to see where you're at."
The Bruins dominated the season's first period with a 14-7 edge in shots on goal and the period's lone goal. Boston used a power play of more than three minutes to wear down the Rangers with a lot of pressure and a couple near misses. With the teams back at full strength, the Bruins finally scored when Lucic won a race to a rebound of a Krejci shot on the rush. Defenseman Andrew Ference had sprung David Krejci with a tape-to-tape stretch pass just before the goal at 14:14.
Rask was a perfect 7-for-7 in saves, including a couple late stops on Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto with bodies screening in front. Rask's view of the puck was seemingly clear throughout the night.
"I felt good throughout the game. The guys made my job so easy because I saw almost everything," Rask said.
The Bruins' fourth line doubled the lead 8:20 into the second period when Daniel Paille tipped Campbell's slap shot past Lundqvist at the end of a shift. Richards' goal sent the Bruins to the second intermission with just a one-goal lead.
Boston's fourth line got involved in the action again later in the period, but in a different way. First Shawn Thornton held his own in a bout with Rangers center Mike Rupp, who was bloodied in the bout. Campbell, however, was bloodied after his brief bout with Stu Bickel just three seconds of game time after the Thornton-Rupp tilt.
Lundqvist came up with an early candidate for save of the season at 7:07 of the third period to keep the Rangers within one. He dove to his left and gloved Krejci's shot just before it crossed the line – a fact that was confirmed by video review.
But Lundqvist couldn't come up with a miracle save on Boychuk's shot from the right point at 8:13, so the Bruins extended to a 3-1 lead. Patrice Bergeron had just won the draw back to Boychuk and then screened Lundqvist.
"I liked our effort tonight. I couldn't be happier because I liked the effort that we gave tonight," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "The guys seemed to be pretty focused. I thought we did some real good plays and good decisions and as bad as we looked on Tuesday [in a scrimmage loss to Providence of the American Hockey League] was as good as we looked tonight."