BOSTON -- With all systems go for the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day, players on the Boston Bruins vowed not to look past the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday.
They kept that promise.
In fact, the team that had been limited to one goal or less in 14 of their previous 38 games this season erupted for three first-period goals on the way to its most complete 60-minute effort of the season in a 4-0 victory over the struggling Thrashers before 17,565 at TD Garden.
"Everybody played their game tonight," Bruins forward Steve Begin said. "It was about details and that's what you saw. When one line went out there, you saw them working so hard. Then another goes out and does the same thing -- it was great. We have to carry this to the next game."
Goalie Tuukka Rask needed to make just 18 saves to earn his second shutout of the season and ninth victory over his last 12 starts.
"I don't think (Atlanta) was at their best," Rask said. "(Ilya) Kovalchuk got a couple of chances, but that's about it. When you lead, 3-0, we all kind of shut it down and I think that's what happened to them."
The first-period barrage was highlighted by the first goal in 14 games for Byron Bitz at 6:33 and the first goal in 30 matches by Begin at 16:50. Those tallies, sandwiched by Marco Sturm's team-leading 13th of the season, chased starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec from the game. Sturm, who scored off a rebound following a heavy shot by Marc Savard from the right circle that rang off the goal post, was named to the German National Team for the fourth straight time earlier in the day.
So now the stage is set for Jan. 1 on the frigid outdoor rink at famed Fenway Park where the Bruins -- winners of four of their last five -- play host to the streaking Flyers, winners of four straight.
"(Thursday) is going to be a day that we can enjoy," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "We have to bring it for a practice and have the right focus, but then again, it's a big deal. It's a big thing. It's basically just another game."
"Philly is good team; I don't care where they're at (in the standings)," Sturm said. "Look at their lineup, they should be on top, but they're not. We lost to them already, so we'll have a tough task ahead of us."
Bruins goalie Tim Thomas is expected to get the nod between the pipes against Philadelphia's Michael Leighton.
Boston coach Claude Julien and Begin are no strangers to outdoor hockey. Begin played for Julien on the Montreal Canadiens in the 2003 Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. The Canadiens scored a 4-3 victory over Edmonton that day.
Julien admits Thursday's practice -- scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at Fenway -- is important as it will provide the players an opportunity to become familiar with the surroundings.
"Having been through it before, the biggest thing you want to do as a team is get used to the environment, to the ice and everything else," Julien said. "It won't be so much about what you need to practice but more getting used to the boards being outside because there is a difference.
"There's a big difference playing outside; it's not in confined area," he continued. "At the same time, we don't know what the weather will be like either so I don't think you should expect us working so much on systems and tactics than just getting through a good practice and having a good feel as to what we're going to be up against (on Friday)."
Begin just remembers how cold it was.
"It was unreal in Edmonton; I don't know what the weather will be like on Friday, but we had those heaters on the bench and that extra padding in our skates … it was so cold," Begin said. "The guys will have to adjust to the ice and we'll do that at practice (on Thursday). We'll figure out what kind of ice we'll be skating on. It's a game we have to play and go to win."
Despite his experience outdoors, Begin admits he hasn't been bombarded with questions from teammates.
"Guys haven't been asking -- but everybody is talking about it in the city," he said. "Tomorrow will be the first time everyone is there and we'll feel it more. We've played so many games and now it's that game on Friday. Guys will get more nervous (on Thursday) and as Friday approaches."
Begin's advice: "They just have to remember, it's just a hockey game and we're there to win."
The Bruins actually had several opportunities to extend the lead but Thrashers replacement goalie Johan Hedberg stood his ground, finishing with 19 saves after Pavelec had allowed three goals on 10 shots.
The loss was the sixth straight for the Thrashers and the seventh in their last eight contests. Ilya Kovalchuk, who leads the Thrashers with 23 goals this season, saw his 10-game point-scoring streak come to an end as the Thrashers finished 0-for-4 on the power-play. Hedberg admitted its gut-check time for his club.
"I can't see too many positives tonight. This is something we can talk about amongst the guys," he said. "The coaches usually don't say anything after a game. We as a group in here know we have to get better."
Patrice Bergeron, a surprise addition to the Canadian Olympic roster on Wednesday afternoon, struck for his 11th of the season at 14:56 of the second to give the home team a commanding 4-0 lead. The Bruins, beating the Thrashers to every loose puck and any battle along the boards, held a 23-12 advantage in shots at the time of Bergeron's goal. The team finished with a 30-18 bulge for the game.
1 - 0 BOS
2 - 0 BOS
3 - 0 BOS