BOSTON – Normally, the preseason atmosphere can be a bit dull.

The names on the roster aren’t always familiar, the play on the ice generally isn’t as fast or intense, and the buzz around the rink tends to be a bit blander.

But on Sunday night at TD Garden, the stands were packed and the Black & Gold faithful produced some more juice than usual for an exhibition tilt.

Perhaps, it was because the Bruins – particularly backstop Brandon Bussi – gave them plenty to cheer about during a 3-0 victory in the preseason opener over the New York Rangers.

“Just a wild experience overall,” said Bussi. “I don't think I've ever played in front of a crowd that excited, that much energy. And it’s only preseason. It's a testament to how great our fans are. And it was just a super exciting experience to do it here for the first time.”

The 25-year-old netminder was responding to a question about the raucous standing ovation he received for what will surely end up being one of the saves of the season. Early in the third period, Bussi went into a full extension as he lunged to his right to snag a one-timer off the stick of Rangers forward Jonny Brodzinski.

Bussi, who catches with his right hand, pulled the puck back off the goal line in mid-air to keep his shutout alive en route to a 29-save blanking of the Blue Shirts.

“Credit to their power play, they were snapping the puck around,” said Bussi. “Sometimes you’ve just got to compete and get a little luck…so I'm pretty fortunate. I made that save, and a lot of credit to the team for the defense in front of me. It was a great effort tonight.”

“It was unreal. Honest to God,” said Bruins coach Jim Montgomery. “It was a great play by them, but the fact that he read it, I mean, that’s a double slot line play – they go in at 75% [rate] because it’s a yawning cage that someone’s looking at, and they put it three quarters of the way up the net. That wasn’t low glove…he went and snared it. That’s big-time athletic ability.”

Bussi, a native of Sound Beach, New York, was eager to seize the opportunity to start the exhibition opener as he kicks off his second professional season, while knowing the competition between the Boston pipes – with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman ahead of him – is quite stiff.

“I think I was just more excited for the opportunity,” said Bussi, who was signed to a one-year, two-way extension in June. “I worked really hard last year and kind of climbed the ladder in a way…excited with the opportunity, didn't really have an expectation. I think the whole point of preseason and training camp is to be ready for opening day. So that was my goal. Did I know that tonight was going to happen like this…I mean, you just compete and you see what happens.”

It's that approach that has served Bussi well over the past several years as he has continued to surprise. After quietly making the way through the ranks at the junior level, Bussi jumped to Western Michigan where he played for three seasons before signing as a free agent with the Bruins in March 2022.

“Just how he started the year, [the Providence Bruins] weren’t sure what they had, and every time he went in net, kept making saves and saves, and stole a lot of games last year for them down there in tight games,” said Montgomery. “He wasn’t a highly recruited player until his last year of junior hockey, then he went to Western Michigan and wasn’t there very long. He’s a late bloomer and he just keeps getting better.”

After starting the 2022-23 campaign with the Maine Mariners of the ECHL, Bussi went on to have a strong showing with the P-Bruins, posting a 22-5-4 record with a .924 save percentage (second in the AHL) and 2.40 goals against average. The 6-foot-4, 218-pounder was also named to the 2023 AHL All-Star Game and the 2022-23 AHL All-Rookie Team.

“Just so much learning,” Bussi, who also backed up for a few games in Boston toward the end of last season, said of his first full year in Providence. “Through the coaching staff, the vet players, just playing, seeing different places, everything was just an overall learning experience. And I definitely feel a lot more comfortable being here for training camp this year than last year.”

Bruins center prospect Johnny Beecher saw firsthand last season the way Bussi was able to command the crease.

“He’s a gamer,” said Beecher. “I think the biggest thing about Bussi is he’s an amazing guy and everybody in the locker room loves him, everybody’s rooting for him. He’s done a spectacular job since he’s signed with the program.

“Last year, starting in the [ECHL] and then coming up here and getting the back-up for some games, it’s pretty special to see what he’s done. Couldn’t be happier for him.”

Bussi speaks with media after preseason shutout

Poitras Pots One

It was a strong night for the Bruins’ youngsters as center prospect Matthew Poitras also impressed in his preseason debut with a goal and an assist. The 19-year-old pivot opened the scoring at 7:20 of the first period when he took a feed from blue liner Reilly Walsh and sneaked a wrister through Rangers goalie Jonathan Quick on the power play.

“Just being able to get on the power play, feel the puck, gain a little bit of confidence – and seeing that one goes in definitely goes a long way to settle the nerves down, just get going,” said Poitras, who later in the second period made a nice feed to Jake DeBrusk on the winger’s goal that doubled Boston’s lead at 3:04 of the middle frame.

“Felt pretty good. Obviously, it’s a lot different than I’m used to. It’s faster, guys are bigger, so just felt better as the game went on and felt more confident with the puck.”

When it comes the details of Poitras’ game, Montgomery pointed to the Ontario native’s compete level as being one of his strongest attributes.

“He competes on draws, he competes for loose pucks, not timid at all in any area,” said Montgomery. “There’s one play in the second period where he dove down to win a battle and he got low and he won that battle and he drove by someone to take a hit.

“He could’ve taken a hit – he took a glimpse of a hit, and, again, a sign of an elusive player that they didn’t get a big piece of him. Those kind of plays show me his competitive fire, that he wants the puck.”

While Poitras was certainly trying to avoid taking any big hits, the 2022 second-round pick did say the uptick in physicality was noticeable.

“Obviously the hits along the wall hurt a bit more and they drain your energy a bit more. That’s the main thing I noticed, but I felt good out there,” said Poitras, who added that he’s been told by the Bruins’ brass to focus on being more reliable in the defensive zone.

“For me it’s just trying to be hard on pucks, get body positioning, be in the right area for the D if they need me coming up the middle. I think just keep supporting the D, being strong down low, and being a bit physical.”

Montgomery said that it will be “a big challenge” for Poitras to break camp with the big club but that the young put himself in a strong position to start the preseason.

“It’s a man’s league out there,” said Montgomery. “He didn’t see the NHL tonight, so it’s a really good start, but that’s what he needs to do, right? He played a really good game, and he’s gonna get another game, and if he keeps playing, he’s gonna get rewarded and continue to get rewarded for it. It would be a pleasant surprise if he was able to do it.”

Poitras posts a 1-1-2 in B's 3-0 win

Beecher Buries

Continuing the youngsters theme, Beecher capped the scoring for the Bruins when he took a feed from Jakub Zboril in the neutral zone and finished off a semi-breakaway with a five-hole finish on Quick at 8:07 of the third period.

“It’s huge. Just a confidence booster,” said the 22-year-old. “Obviously, everybody loves seeing the puck go in the back of the net. I think it’s a big thing for me relying on my shot, all the training that I had this summer. Always nice to get the first one out of the way.”

Beyond the goal, Montgomery said he was pleased with overall effort of the 2019 first-round pick.

“He had a good game,” said Montgomery. “He needs to continue to show it throughout camp. That’s the thing…as camp goes on it gets harder and the people that rise to the top are the ones that are gonna make it, so it’s a really good start for several players tonight, and they got to keep building on that.”

Beecher echoed Montgomery’s sentiments, saying that he must build off and learn from his performance if he wants to crack the Boston lineup come Opening Night.

“I think looking throughout the game, a lot of good things but a lot of little detail things that I either made the wrong read on or just kinda jumped the zone a little bit,” said Beecher. “I think the good thing is that I can recognize those pretty much as soon as they’re happening. At this level, plays are getting made so fast and I think a big thing for them that they want to see is all the little details taken care of. I’m just cleaning up those little things and the rest should fall in place.”

Beecher scores as Bruins beat NYR 3-0

Wait, There’s More

  • Patrick Brown and Zboril both left the game early and did not return due to injury. Montgomery said both exits were precautionary. “We just didn’t want to take any chances,” he said.
  • Montgomery on Fabian Lysell’s performance: “I thought he showed really good speed. I thought his best period was the third period…because of special teams and rotation assignments, the second period we killed and he didn’t kill tonight. But the third period I thought he showed a lot of poise, a lot of attacking the middle of the ice.”

Montgomery speaks with media after 3-0 win over NYR