By John Bishop, BostonBruins.com
The circus left the TD Banknorth Garden at the beginning of the week, but the Boston Bruins and their staff made sure that the Hub of Hockey was the Greatest Show on Ice on Thursday night when the Black-and-Gold faced off against the Calgary Flames in the home opener of the 2006-07 season.
The festivities began early on Thursday morning when a gigantic Bruins spoked-B logo, hoisted aloft by two huge cranes, was set in the players' parking lot in front of the Garden to welcome fans and players alike.
Later in the day, a giant retro Bruins hockey jersey (modeled after those worn by Bobby Orr and crew), hockey themed challenge games and plenty of music added to the festive attitude on Causeway Street -- and that was before anyone even entered the building.
Following an amazing Opening Night Extravaganza which saw Boston Bruins legends, past and present, as well as representatives from all levels of New England hockey on hand to greet Boston's faithful, all eyes turned to Garden HDX, the building's next generation high def scoreboard where a presentation on Boston's hockey heritage was greeted by excitement and warm applause -- especially for video of former Bruin greats John Bucyk, Cam Neely and Ray Bourque who watched from the ice.
But the man whose shoulders bore the brunt of the burden early on this night was new Bruins captain Zdeno Chara
, who was introduced along with those great Boston players and prior to the rest of the team taking the ice, when the mood of anticipation in the Garden was as thick as the smoke Calgary found in the arena as they emerged from their dressing room.
Thankfully for the hometown fans and the previously downtrodden Boston squad attempting to bounce back at home from a 1-3-1 season starting road trip, the tension broke quickly, as the Bruins Brad Boyes came roaring out of the locker room and scored just 18 seconds in the first period thanks to a beautiful pass from Marc Savard
"Everyone got their butterflies out," said Chara of the early marker. "And everybody was really pumped up. In the arena you could feel that energy after we scored that first goal."
The Bruins used Head Coach Dave Lewis' puck protection, defense first strategy to wait out the Flames, successfully killed two Calgary powerplays, and then used a tenacious forecheck to garner several strong scoring opportunities.
Boston finally capitalized at 8:49 when Glen Murray took a pass from Patrice Bergeron
to bury the puck behind Calgary's all-world goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and send the game into the intermission 2-0.
Calgary attempted to come back late in the second session when Damon Lankow scored at 16:59, but Boston almost immediately returned the favor when Murray surprised everyone in the building, especially Calgary's Kiprusoff, as he "sling-shotted" the puck past the Finnish netminder to score his second of the night from the seat of his pants at 19:24 to send Boston into the locker room up 3-1 for the second break.
A scary moment in the second stanza saw Stephane Yelle, Calgary's assistant captain, take a tough trajectory into the Boston end boards and was carted off the ice on a stretcher with was later described as a broken ankle.
Undaunted, Calgary mounted yet another comeback midway into the third period when the Flames Alex Tanguay beat a sprawling Boston goaltender Hannu Toivonen to put the game in reach at 3-2.
But Toivonen, who finished the evening with 26 saves, held the fort and preserved the win.
"We had a couple of lapses tonight," said Murray of the team's effort. "But that's the game. It's a game of mistakes. You just try to minimize them and make sure they don't go in the net.
And how about the fans?
"They got to see a brand new team tonight," said Murray. "And it was nice to get the fans behind us."
"That's what it's all about, just winning games."
Boston next faces the high flying Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night at 7:00 at the TD Banknorth Garden.