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Remembering “The Stars Game,” a decade later

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It was a turning point in the season — and, arguably, for the entire franchise.

dafoomie/NESN

Truthfully, I’m kicking myself. I can’t believe I didn’t have this post ready to go on November 1st, which was this game’s 10th “birthday.”

I also can’t believe I didn’t have it ready on November 5th, when the Bruins and Stars played a game at the Garden, which is where this game occurred.

What can I say, I got sloppy with my nostalgia. But hey, better late than never, right?

Before tonight’s Bruins-Stars tilt begins, let’s take a walk down memory lane...


For Bruins fans, “The Stars Game” is one of those moments that doesn’t need a date, nor does it require further explanation. If you’ve been around a while (boy, does saying “a decade ago” make me feel old), you know what The Stars Game was.

You may not remember the date or the day of the week or the final score, but you remember the names: Steve Ott. Sean Avery. Krys Barch. Andrew Ference. Shawn Thornton. Milan Lucic. Marc Savard.

The Bruins entered the 2008-2009 season as a team on the rise. A surprise “run” of seven games in the previous spring’s playoffs combined with a decent group of young players to bring some enthusiasm back to the Garden.

However, when the Stars came to town on November 1, 2008, nothing special had happened. The B’s were off to a 5-3-3 start, good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference, but the team hadn’t had its crystallizing moment yet.

Then...The Stars Game.

The video above comes from dafoomie, king of Bruins highlights on YouTube.

Man. What a game, eh?

The funny thing is, the game was relatively normal for the first 20 minutes. The Bruins took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Marco Sturm, then Dallas tied it up six minutes later on a goal by Sean Avery.

Things got a little chippy in the second.

The source of all the antics was Steve Ott, who started antagonizing as the first period ended. He added fuel to the fire when he low-bridged Stephane Yelle early in the second, then refused to answer the bell when Shawn Thornton came calling.

Old school hockey people will say that if you answer the bell, things will cool down. If you don’t, they’ll boil over. In this case, the old school people were right.

Ott then left his feet on a hit, and refused to fight Shane Hnidy. He didn’t want to fight Milan Lucic either. He kept poking and poking at the Bruins, and it was clearly giving them fits.

Still, it was a reasonably normal game heading into the third, with the Bruins having a 2-1 lead.

And then...all hell broke loose.

Five minutes into the third, Avery fed Ott a suicide pass, and Ference lit him up, right at center ice. It was a beautiful hit, and led to Jack Edwards hitting the roof.

Avery then came calling for Ference, who answered the bell. Ference then gave a wave to the crowd on his way to the box, and the chaos was on.

Marty Turco would elbow a Bruin in the face. Ott tried to lowbridge Lucic. Thornton and Barch had a rare event in this game: a standard, one-on-one fight.

Ott ended up getting tossed halfway through the third, but things didn’t stop there.

Right after his misconduct, Avery boarded Lucic, and both teams lost their minds. Marc Savard started pummeling Avery. Everyone found a dance partner, and poor Matt Niskanen’s partner was Sheriff Shane Hnidy.

That unfair pairing led to Jack’s legendary “Matty Niskanen’s not gonna be such a pretty little boy anymore!”

The best part of the line brawl? Steve Ott, gear-free, was watching it from the tunnel.

“There’s Brave Steve! There he is. Brave Steve, in the tunnel.”

Jack Edwards rules.

The Bruins ended up winning the game by a score of 5-1, but the game ended up meaning much more than that: the win kicked off an epic run for the Bruins, one that lasted pretty much through the entirety of the 2008-2009 season.

The 5-1 win was the beginning of a 24-2-1 stretch that saw the B’s lay waste to the NHL. The streak included a run of 10 wins in a row, plus a couple of five-game win streaks. It was nuts.

Chances are, tonight’s game won’t be nearly as entertaining.

But hey, you never know: all it takes is one game to kick off something special.

View the box score from this game