BOSTON - As he counted down the hours until his NHL debut, Jake DeBrusk took a moment to remember all that he has gone through to get to this point.
He remembered the times he was cut. And all the times he had to take a step back and start again. And all the other adversity that presented itself during the course of his journey to the National Hockey League.
"Everyone has a different road," DeBrusk said a day before the season opener. "And mine has taken me to this moment. I'm very thankful for how everything's worked out. It's been a fun ride."
That ride, however, is just beginning. And DeBrusk made sure to kick it off with a bang on Thursday night.
The 20-year-old winger potted his first career NHL goal and also grabbed his first assist, while landing a team-high four shots on goal, in the Bruins 4-3 season opening win over the Nashville Predators at TD Garden.
"Pretty surreal to be honest," said DeBrusk, who played 14 minutes, 5 seconds in his debut. "It was one that I'll never forget, that's for sure. A little bit of a blur at the moment. Was just trying to make a quick move, and it went in, and the crowd went pretty loud. So I'll never forget that feeling."
Video: NSH@BOS: DeBrusk scores in NHL debut, dad tears up
The feeling was made even more special given the special guests that were in attendance. DeBrusk's entire immediate family flew in from Edmonton for his debut, including his father, Louie, the former winger, who played 400 NHL games for the Oilers, Lightning, Coyotes, and Blackhawks.
"It means a lot," said DeBrusk, who was the first Bruin to score in his debut since Frank Vatrano in November 2015. "He took a red eye here with the family, got in early with family, took a nap, came to the game. It's one of those things that I'm very fortunate and lucky. Obviously, everyone's got different family things going on, but I was lucky enough for them to come and lucky enough to score when they were here.
"So it's one of those things that I guess was meant to be, and something I'll never forget, that's for sure."
The bond between father and son was clear following DeBrusk's inaugural tally. When the NESN cameras panned to the proud father in Loge 20, tears were streaming down his face. And you can be sure son won't allow father to live that one down anytime soon.
"Well, he's known as a tough guy but I heard that there were some tears coming from him," DeBrusk said with a smile. "So it's a very emotional time, but I'll be chirping him for a couple of years to come. That's for sure."
DeBrusk's goal in his NHL debut was the brightest light in a bevy of standout performances from Boston's young talent. David Pastrnak opened the scoring with a laser power-play tally midway through the first, while Anders Bjork - also making his NHL debut - assisted on DeBrusk's goal. Charlie McAvoy, who was playing in his first regular season NHL game, had the helper on Pastrnak's goal, before grabbing the first of his career to give Boston a 3-1 lead late in the second period.
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Bruins had two players score their first NHL goals in their first NHL games on the same night was Feb. 13, 1949, when Zellio Toppazzini and Dave Creighton scored against the Rangers.
"It's normal to have a little nerves in you before the first game," said David Krejci, who notched three assists on the evening. "Not just for the young guys, but for the veterans as well. It was the first game in a long time. But I thought they handled themselves pretty good. Charlie and DeBrusk got their first goal so that'll help their confidence. And Bjork got a point as well, so good for them."
After Noel Acciari went down with an upper-body injury early in the second period, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was forced to switch up his lines - which were already jumbled given the absence of both Patrice Bergeron and David Backes. Cassidy decided then to shift Bjork to the right wing alongside DeBrusk and Krejci, and just moments later the trio connected to give Boston a 2-1 lead.
After Bjork took a long outlet pass from Matt Grzelcyk, he chipped the puck over to Krejci who tipped it to a charging DeBrusk. DeBrusk then finished the deal with a slick forehand deke around Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
"I played with Jake a lot this training camp," said Krejci. "Haven't skated with Bjork at all, but for some reason I thought we were finding each other pretty well. We'll see how the lineup is going to look like, but it was fun playing this game."
Video: Youth powers Bruins past Predators in 4-3 win
Cassidy, who has long praised DeBrusk's skill and speed, was pleased with the youngster's ability to keep up with the strength and rigor of an NHL game.
"Smart player - you can't teach that," said Cassidy. "Good feel for the game. We've talked about liking his pace. It's just for him, it's playing against big men now. Is he ready for that? Tonight he looked good. Other times, guys pushed him off the puck. He'll have to learn what he can get away with, but he does have the ability to separate. We saw that.
"Tonight, he had a little bit of finish as well. That's the other part. You need that production at some point, and we got it tonight."
And the Bruins hope they get it for many more years to come.
Video: DeBrusk on his first NHL goal