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A Night of Firsts as Bruins Pick up First Win

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

DENVER — When the final buzzer sounded at the Pepsi Center on Wednesday night, the Bruins had their first win of the 2015-16 season: a 6-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.

Tyler Randell’s first NHL goal in his first NHL game stood as the game-winner. He became the first Bruin to score in his first game since 2008.

Jimmy Hayes set a career high with four points in a single game, thanks to his first goal as a Bruin and three assists.

Kevan Miller, Chris Kelly and Ryan Spooner joined Randell and Hayes as scorers, all netting their first goals of the season. Zdeno Chara picked up his first two assists (and points) of the season. Colin Miller notched his first NHL/Bruins assist and point. Adam McQuaid and Brett Connolly notched their first points of the season with an assist apiece.

Jonas Gustavsson made his Bruins debut between the pipes, making 20 saves on 22 shots. He had to be solid, especially early on when Boston had to kill a penalty just 31 seconds into the game.

David Krejci sealed the 60-minute effort with an empty-netter.

“I think the focus and the determination of our group was really good,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said postgame from the Pepsi Center. “We were giving up too many goals and that we had to [re-establish] the part of our game without the puck.”

The Bruins regained their defensive layers, reduced breakdowns and managed the puck much better than their first three games that saw them give up a collective 16 goals.

They were aggressive on the forecheck, created turnovers and pounced on loose pucks.

“I mentioned [to the team] that we seemed to have good starts in every game so far this year and that couldn’t change,” said Julien. “But what had to change — we had to extend our 20 minute game to a 60 minute game and for the most part, I was pretty happy with that.”

The Bruins continued their trend of starting strong when Kevan Miller fired in his first of the season from the right point after a pass from Chara at 5:49 into the first.

Hayes followed up up just over two minutes later with his first by going hard to the front of the net and potting a rebound in front from a Chara shot to make it 2-0. Randell caused havoc in front of the net, distracting two Avs defenders and screening goalie Semyon Varlamov.

The celebration from Hayes — an immediate fist pump and yell from one knee — showed his relief.

“That was a good one for me, just to get it out of the way,” said Hayes. “You know, I just wanted to finally — it felt like it was taking forever to score a goal, but I go to the net, and get rewarded, so it was nice.”

Randell started his night a plus-1 and it carried over into the rest of his night.

“I was just trying to play strong in the corners and play positional, get to the front of the net and cause a screen, pick up rebounds,” said Randell. “And [Jimmy] threw it on net and it squeaked through, so it was a great start to the game.”

“He was ready to play and we know he can be a good player,” Julien said of Randell. “If he can bring some consistency like that, we know his toughness, we know he can skate and play, he goes to those dirty areas and that’s why he’s still here.”

Although there were six different goal scorers, the game’s best tally of the night came from Randell. First goals get that treatment.

Early in the second period after a faceoff, Zac Rinaldo’s pressure helped rotate the puck out high to McQuaid, who fired from the point with Randell deflecting in his first NHL goal. Joonas Kemppainen provided extra traffic in front.

Randell gave a fist pump to the air, received a goal huddle from Kemppainen, McQuaid and company, and streamed through a line of fist bumps from his teammates on the bench.

“I knew I tipped it — after that, I kind of blacked out, I didn’t know what happened,” Randell smiled postgame, as his first goal puck sat on the top shelf of his stall in the B’s visiting locker room. “But it was a great feeling and great to get it out of the way.”

His debut couldn’t have been drawn up better.

“It was definitely what you dream of, from day one, when you’re three years old, playing mini sticks, firing the ball around — you pretend you’re in the NHL,” said Randell. “And the chance finally came and never expected this to happen in the first game, but pretty excited.”

Randell made his debut along with good friend and longtime P-Bruins teammate Tommy Cross, who logged 14:25 in ice time in his first NHL game.

“I felt pretty good — legs felt good, I made a couple of good plays early on and that kind of calmed me down,” said Cross, who played his first NHL shift on the penalty kill. “Then we started playing well, we started rolling, you get some confidence and you see a guy like Randy score, like that just gets you going, so the game flew by, but overall it was a good night.”

“I thought he handled himself well,” said Julien. “You know, we always talk about Tommy and I said that this morning, about his hockey sense. Such a smart player, reads the play well, moves the puck well and did all of those tonight, so I thought he really helped us out.”

“It’s kind of fun just to remember the first game as a win and kind of get out of the little funk that we were in, so it was so much fun.”

Hayes notched his first goal, and then added three helpers on the Bruins’ final three tallies of the night. He and linemates Spooner and Kelly combined for seven points.

After Hayes caused a takeaway, he raced into the zone and fed Spooner, who hit Kelly with a slick feed through an Avalanche defender’s legs that he slipped by Varlamov with a backhander that put the Bruins up 4-0 midway through the second.

Spooner made it 5-0 when he and Hayes connected on a give-and-go after a strong forecheck.

“It’s nice to contribute,” said Hayes. “We had talked about it amongst ourselves, where you’ve got to find a way to contribute and you’ve got to keep pucks out of your own net and we were executing and played a simple a game, a lot of communication, and a lot of leadership and pride in Kells to make sure I saw Spooner and myself and we were going.”

Kelly has been on the left wing with Spooner and Hayes ever since Connolly moved up with Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson while Brad Marchand works his way back from a concussion.

Jimmy Hayes scoring a goal there and hadn’t scored since he’d been with us and no doubt that took a lot of pressure off him and he just seemed to relax and be more confident,” said Julien. “Kelly, there’s no doubt, his experience and his work ethic and he makes everybody accountable on the line.”

“He’s made everybody work that much harder and they were rewarded for their play…they really pounced on those turnovers. They created them and then they made the most of them, so I liked their determination.”

Gustavsson mirrored the rest of the team, proving steady in his Black & Gold debut, especially early on. His best stop came on a Mikko Rantenen breakaway that kept it 2-0 in the second half of the first.

The Avalanche would eventually get two past Gustavsson, one on the power play and the second off a wrister from the left circle that beat him inside the short side post.

“I felt pretty good,” he said. “Guys helped me a lot and other than that last goal when I lost concentration a little bit and cheated — I thought he was going to pass — other than that, I felt pretty good and the guys helped me a lot.”

The Bruins are off on Thursday, before practicing Friday and finishing their two game road trip against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night. They’ll look to carry over their strong effort from Colorado.

“As a team, we’ve just got to know what we did,” said Gustavsson. “We kept it simple and played solid defensively and that gave us a lot of scoring chances so I think it goes hand in hand — if you have a good defense, you’re going to get a lot of offense, so we’ve just got to stick with what we’re doing and we’ll be fine.”

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