BOSTON -- As much as there is a sense of excitement about what's ahead for the Boston Bruins, there was at least that much relief following their 7-3 win against the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden on Tuesday.
Relief because they stopped a three-game losing streak. Relief because forwards who had been struggling to score like Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey combined for five goals, including a hat trick for Hayes. Relief because their top-ranked power play proved it can produce (a season-high four goals) without injured center David Krejci.
And, not to be buried under the avalanche of good that happened to the Bruins on Tuesday, relief that they don't have to worry anymore that looking ahead to the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic means they risk looking past the next game.
The Winter Classic against the Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium on Friday (1 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports) is the next game for the Bruins. They can finally talk about it. Shockingly, they haven't all season long.
"It is (a relief), but I think we've done a really good job," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We haven't talked much about the Winter Classic. We haven't dwelled on it. It hasn't been brought up in conversation. I think we did a good job of pushing that aside and taking care of business that was at hand."
The business at hand now will be a family skate at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday followed by a practice there Thursday and the game Friday.
"There's no doubt going to skate [Wednesday] and practicing the following day, there's going to be a buildup and some excitement as well," Julien said.
The excitement was finally starting to show through in the dressing room after the game Tuesday.
Defenseman Torey Krug, who missed the game Sunday against the Senators, mentioned how nothing was going to keep him out of the game Friday against the Canadiens, so it was good for him to get into a game beforehand. He had an assist on two of Boston's four power-play goals.
"It's the biggest rivalry in hockey, and I think it's just an unbelievable event that I feel very lucky and blessed to be a part of," Krug said. "I know other guys feel the same way. We're all looking forward to putting our mark on the rivalry and coming out on top."
Center Max Talbot, a veteran of the 2011 and 2012 Winter Classic after being injured for the inaugural game in Buffalo in 2008, talked about the excitement over the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry he knows so well from growing up just outside Montreal in Lemoyne, Quebec.
"Just the event itself is such a fun event, so you get up for that and you get excited about that," Talbot said. "Being from Montreal, and the Habs, knowing the history and the rivalry, it makes it even more special."
Talbot also mentioned how impressed he has been at the Bruins' ability to put the Winter Classic out of sight and out of mind until now. He referenced their 7-4-3 record in December as evidence that they haven't been caught looking ahead.
"It's easy to remember the date, but I think we've done a great job keeping focus," Talbot said. "If you look at the month of December, it was pretty solid. We did good as a team staying focused, and now it's about getting that atmosphere.
"[Wednesday] is going to be a fun day, and that's OK, but [Dec. 31] and [Jan. 1] are business. It's fun business, but it's two points, and that's something you can't forget."
The Bruins certainly didn't forget about the two points up for grabs Tuesday. They would do themselves a favor if they play the same way against the Canadiens in the Winter Classic.
Their performance, which came with goals and snarl, is exactly the kind of effort that gets Boston fans fired up about their hockey team. Not only did the Bruins build on a 3-2 lead by scoring four goals in the third period, they didn't back down from the Senators.
There were 25 penalties totaling 110 minutes handed out in the game; 11 penalties totaling 82 minutes were called in the final 63 seconds.
"Boston fans live for that," goalie Tuukka Rask said.
The game ended with Hayes scoring his hat-trick goal with 0.2 seconds remaining on the clock.
"I like the way they were thinking in a 6-3 game, out there trying to help their teammate out," Julien said.
They did. The buzzer sounded. Relief spread through the Bruins dressing room and excitement started to build.
The Winter Classic is the next game on the schedule. It's OK to talk about it now.
"I know we're all excited about the next one," Krug said.