The Boston Bruins topped the Dallas Stars, 3-1, in their season opener tonight at the TD Garden, as Brad Marchand started the night with a thrilling penalty-shot goal and Jake DeBrusk netted the confidence-boosting game-winner.
Fifteen players had at least on shot on net as the Bruins outshot the Stars 40-28. Charlie McAvoy and Brad Marchand led with five shots each.
“We had a plan tonight to try to play behind their d[efense],” Bruce Cassidy said. “They’re missing [John] Klingberg. He plays a lot of minutes for them. So we tried to put some pressure on them and eventually it paid off.”
While Braden Holtby faced 40 shots tonight, Jeremy Swayman also saw plenty of action as the game progressed. Swayman made 27 saves on 28 shots and earned his first win of the season.
The Bruins controlled the beginning of the game and set the momentum from the opening shifts.
The B’s top lines brought offensive zone pressure early on. The chemistry was buzzing between Charlie Coyle, Craig Smith and Taylor Hall. The trio built upon their strong neutral zone passing and breakouts to get quality shots off on Holtby in the first few minutes of the game.
All four lines were heavy on the forecheck and kept on the puck. Battles were won deep in the corners and along the walls.
In the defensive zone, the Stars were limited to the outside which hindered their ability to set up plays or get any shots on net. It took nearly 16 minutes for their offense to register a shot on goal, despite a shot attempt that was not counted midway through the period.
The Bruins carried the play, and Holtby came up big to keep it a scoreless game for most of the period.
The B’s broke through and opened the scoring at 17:38 of the first period on a penalty shot.
Brad Marchand was careful not to be off-sides as he collected the puck at the blue line. On his way towards net, he was tripped by Ryan Suter. Awarded a penalty shot, Marchand put a low shot past Holtby’s stick. 1-0 Bruins.
Brad Marchand with the first goal of the Bruins season — on a penalty shot. pic.twitter.com/9z3Rdy6Rrn— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) October 16, 2021
Jamie Benn finally tested Swayman with Dallas’ first shot of the game 16 minutes into the first period.
In total, the Bruins outshot the Stars 17-5 in the frame. While the Bruins generated offense, a lot of the team’s chances came from high, long shots along the blue line to counter Dallas’ style of defense.
Nine shots in the first period came from B’s defensemen. McAvoy and Brandon Carlo had three shots apiece.
The Bruins began the second period on the penalty kill and the Stars quickly set the pace as they built on the energy of their power plays.
The B’s had their own power-play opportunities shortly after. Although they had some chances from David Pastrnak, the units couldn’t overall generate much offense with the Stars’ PK crowding shooting lanes and blocking shots.
The Stars tied the game at 9:15 of the second period.
Tanner Kero found Luke Glendening skating into the slot where he beat Swayman’s blocker with a wrist shot. 1-1 game.
The Bruins had two full penalty kills during the middle frame. Derek Forbort did a good job clearing the front of the net and playing the body. But there was more pressure overall on Swayman during the kills following the momentum from Glendening’s goal.
With more PKs, including 11 seconds of a 5-on-3, there was less time for lines to stay intake and continue to gel.
The second period tilted in favor of the Stars. Although the Bruins’ penalty kills overall were effective, they were still on the defensive more than they should have been. A couple bad turnovers led to puck control for the Stars.
The Stars continued to gain confidence in the third period and put pressure on Swayman in the opening minutes, including a shift where Swayman lost track of the puck in front of him and Alexander Radulov nearly put a go-ahead in.
Tomas Nosek’s line provided an important forechecking shift which shifted the tempo of the period. His line won battles behind the net and kept the puck deep in the offensive zone. Nosek tried to find Karson Kuhlman out front of the shift, but Kuhlman’s shot went wide.
Despite a missed opportunity for that line, that shift restored the Bruins’ offense. Following it, Patrice Bergeron’s line came out and was flying which ultimately kept the pace going once DeBrusk, Erik Haula and Nick Foligno came out.
The Bruins took the lead at 4:43 of the third period. DeBrusk found the loose puck that Nick Foligno threw towards net where he put a quick shot past Holtby. 2-1 Bruins.
The Bruins cleaned up their game to focus on the simple details like winning puck races and battles along the boards.
The most evident was Erik Haula winning the initial race to the puck along the boards. That goal was the product of winning puck battles.
Marchand scored an empty-netter at 18:23 of the third period. Final score: 3-1 Bruins.
The Bruins are back in action next week for two road games, the first against the Philadelphia Flyers on October 20 at 7:30 pm.