DALLAS - Brett Ritchie did not wake up on Thursday morning with a guarantee that he would be in the lineup for the Bruins' Opening Night tilt against the Dallas Stars.
With David Krejci's lingering lower-body injury trending in the right direction, Ritchie was uncertain if he'd get a chance to face off against the team with which he had spent his first seven professional seasons.
Nevertheless, the 26-year-old winger prepared as if he would be making his Bruins debut. So, when word came down following pregame skate that Krejci would be unable to go, Ritchie was more than ready to slide into the lineup.
And he wasted no time in showing it.
Ritchie converted on his first shot in Black & Gold, opening the scoring just over a minute into the opener to set the tone in Boston's 2-1 victory over the Stars at American Airlines Center.
"Felt like a playoff game, Just a little bit more exciting than your average Tuesday night. It felt good, obviously, whenever you can chip in," said Ritchie, who signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Bruins on July 1. "I really just wanted the two points. It was a bit of a scramble game, but that's all I really care about.
"I'm still confident in what I can do. New team, new opportunity, fresh start, whatever you want to call it. I'm just going to try to take advantage of it."
So far, so good.
Video: Brett Ritchie speaks after Bruins debut
Skating mostly on a line with Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder played 12:55 and landed two shots on goal and two hits, displaying his patented smashmouth style. And on his goal, he also showed off the skill that helped him pot a career-high 16 goals with the Stars in 2016-17.
After a stellar takeaway by Coyle as Dallas tried to exit their own end, Ritchie battled for the loose puck and ripped a wrister from the left circle that beat Stars goalie Ben Bishop through the five-hole on Boston's first shot of the game just 1:09 into the new season.
"From that angle, no," Ritchie said when asked if he thought he could beat Bishop clean. "I'm trying to get it through the D-man, make sure I get it on net. I knew I had a guy backside, sort of converging, so you just never know."
The Bruins continued to push following Ritchie's marker and opened up a 2-0 lead 4:50 later - on just their second shot of the game - when Danton Heinen beat Bishop on the power play from nearly the same spot at the left circle.
"You're not gonna score on your first two shots very often, but we jumped out to an early lead there and had momentum for much of the first and then they took it to us a little bit in the second there," said Ritchie. "[Tuukka Rask] was great. That's hockey. It was a little bit back and forth, but it was a good road win. On to the next one."
Following his performance in his Bruins debut, that next one is likely to be on Saturday night in Arizona.
"Obviously his old team, coming into this barn, first game of the year," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, "[he was] just trying to show his teammates that he's a guy that can help us win. He did that."
Video: BOS@DAL: Ritchie snipes opening goal from the circle
Krejci Sits Out
Following pregame skate, Cassidy said Krejci was still feeling "tender" and would be a game-time decision as he worked his way back from a lower-body injury suffered in the penultimate preseason game last week. Given those lingering effects, Krejci and the Bruins' medical staff felt it was best to not to push it so early in the season.
"Krech wasn't ready. We thought he would be, to be honest with you," said Cassidy. "I think the original diagnosis had him ready for the opener. It just didn't heal as quickly as we'd like, so we'll aim for Saturday and see who's in and out then."
Video: Cassidy speaks after win
Throughout the preseason, the Bruins believed that Coyle was the team's best player. It was simply a continuation of the Weymouth native's stellar play during Boston's run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring. And nothing changed on Thursday night.
In addition to his textbook backcheck to set up the Bruins' first goal, the 27-year-old also factored heavily into Heinen's tally later in the first period. Coyle parked his 6-foot-3 frame in front of Bishop, providing the perfect screen for Heinen's wrister from the left circle.
"He was arguably our best player, most notable player in camp," said Cassidy. "The screen to me made that goal. Danton might have beat him anyway - it's a good shot - don't get me wrong. But Bishop's a real good goaltender. You've got to take away his eyes and Charlie did a good job out there."
For the night, Coyle finished 6 of 11 at the dot with one shot on goal in 16:49 of ice time, which was the third highest among Bruins forwards behind Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Video: Coyle and Wagner speak after win
Tuukka Time Returns
Rask was sharp in his 2019-20 debut, making 28 saves on 29 shots, including a flashy glove stop on Roope Hintz with midway through the third to keep the Bruins up by a goal. Rask turned away all 16 shots he faced in the third period.
"I felt the best in the third actually, I don't know if that's because I had the most action or what," said Rask. "Good win overall. I saw the puck pretty well. I think the guys did a good job of keeping them to the outside, made a couple huge blocks. That was obviously key. It helps when you see it. You just try to make yourself big and make those saves."
Video: BOS@DAL: Rask flashes the leather on Hintz