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Kelly, Smith Lead Bruins to Season Opening Win Over Flyers

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON - As 17,000-plus fans filtered out of the sellout TD Garden on Wednesday night, and the Bruins rushed onto a bus to fly out to Detroit, their 2-1 season opening win over the Philadelphia Flyers still lingered.

The few remaining fans on Causeway Street cheered and screamed to the bus as it pulled out of the Garden.

This is the breath of a new season, a clean slate. For now, after Game 1, two points are in the queue, and the Bruins are undefeated.

Chris Kelly jammed home the game-winner with just 1:51 left in the third period to break a 1-1 tie, and eventually send a happy crowd, and a happy team, on their way.

Kelly had carried the puck into the zone, starting a string of passes among himself, Loui Eriksson and Carl Soderberg, who fed a trailing Adam McQuaid at the right point.

The blueliner's stick broke in two, but the shot still made its way to Flyers goaltender Steve Mason and rebounded with enough pop that Kelly could power it home. Eriksson made sure to claim real estate in the blue paint and swat at the puck as well.

"It’s the way we want to start," Kelly said postgame. "Wins in October are just as good as wins in April. I thought we played well - everyone."

For the alternate captain, coming off summer back surgery and a missed postseason, it wasn't a bad way to begin the 2014-15 campaign.

"I just wanted to go out there and feel good and enjoy it," said Kelly. "Last year was taken away from me and made me realize how much I missed the game and want to be out there playing - I just tried to enjoy the whole night and tried to play my game."

It helped that he was playing with familiar linemates in Eriksson and Soderberg, with injuries to David Krejci (undisclosed, IR) and Gregory Campbell (mid-core, Non-Roser IR) causing the lines to be mixed and matched.

"I think we try to read off one another and support each other in all three zones which is key," said Kelly.

"He’s a guy that you miss him when he’s gone, and then when he comes back he’s the same old Kells," said Tuukka Rask, who stopped 19 of 20 shots in the win. "He does these things, not trying too much and it’s a good thing that he got rewarded too."

"He’s usually a little grumpy in the dressing room so that will put a smile on him for a few days for sure," quipped Reilly Smith.

It also wasn't a bad way for a healthy McQuaid to kick off the season, factoring into the winner.

"That was a good start, for us to see those two guys contribute the way they did," said Head Coach Claude Julien.

The Bruins first ignited the sellout Garden crowd at 10:39 into the opening frame for a 1-0 lead.

Smith set off the first goal goal horn of the 2014-15 season by putting home a backdoor feed from Soderberg on the power play.

A broken play resulted in Soderberg, Eriksson and Patrice Bergeron all fishing for the puck in the right corner, with Soderberg ultimately getting it free to Smith jetting through the left circle. Dougie Hamilton rounded out the power-play unit.

"I don’t know how he sees it, so I’m just happy that he does," smiled Smith. "'Cause I don’t really see too many lanes, but for some reason, he always gets the puck through."

It gave an early jolt of confidence to Smith, who still feels he has strides to make after being a late arrival to camp, along with Torey Krug.

"It’s getting better every day," said Smith. "You’re obviously not going to be in mid-season form game one, but it’s been a steady progression."

"It’s only one [goal], so hopefully we can keep going."

Leading 1-0 after the first, the Bruins didn't have the best start to the second period, with the tandem of Hamilton and Zdeno Chara stuck in the defensive zone for 2:13, before an icing led Julien to call a timeout.

The shift ended up lasting 2:25. The Flyers could have taken advantage of the opportunity, but the Bruins came out unscathed. Hamilton admittedly didn't have his best night, but preached to be better in Detroit.

Boston had to kill two penalties in the second, and also came out of those unscathed, thought they spent much more time in their zone that they would have liked. They wound up 3-for-3 on the penalty kill.

Bobby Robins, playing in his first NHL game after 499 overall games in the AHL, ECHL and overseas in Europe, ended up dropping the gloves for his first official NHL fight.

Robins, who prides himself on a tough brand of hockey, sandwiched Zac Rinaldo with Craig Cunnnighan in front of the Flyers' bench near the midpoint of the second. Cunningham was suiting up in just his third NHL game after making his debut with the Bruins in 2013-14. The gritty pair spent the last three seasons together in Providence.

Luke Schenn made a beeline for Robins, and the brief bout ensued.

"I know the brand of hockey these Boston fans like and I just hope to be able to provide that and to get that kind of reception was a great feeling," said Robins. "Hopefully more where that came from."

It was a fitting NHL welcome for Robins at the Garden.

"After nine years, to have that happen was a dream come true," said a soft-spoken Robins, with reporters packed in around him in the Bruins' locker room. "And to play here at the Garden after playing four years at UMass Lowell and always watching the Bruins for the past bunch of years. It was a very special feeling; I’ll never forget it."

Robins and Cunningham rounded out the fourth line with Daniel Paille. Their work led to a Bruins' power play in the third period that kept the momentum rolling.

"I think everyone came out here and performed and did what they do best," said Kelly. "I think it was great to see Bobby Robins play his first NHL game and have an impact. Cunny [Cunningham] played extremely well. He was important taking faceoffs, killing penalties. I think a lot of times they didn’t let those guys enter. Those are just two of many that played well."

While the trio of Bergeron, Smith and Brad Marchand remains a consistent force, Milan Lucic added a reliable, veteran presence to a line with Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser.

"Obviously we didn’t play much together in the preseason or anything, but the good thing was we didn’t get scored on," said Lucic. "I think we have a lot to build on heading into [Thursday] night’s game. We’ve just got to try to get in sync a little bit more."

The Flyers' lone goal came at 4:19 into the third period, when Sean Couturier gained positioning on Soderberg in front of Rask and tipped in a centering feed from Jakub Voracek.

The Bruins are right back in action on Thursday night in Detroit against the Red Wings.

"Personally, I like it," said Kelly, of the quick back-to-back to kick off the season.

"Seven games in the next eleven days," said Smith. "Points are huge right now and to get off to a hot start will be good for our team."

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