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You couldn’t expect much from a 23 year-old kid who hasn’t played an NHL hockey game in almost a year. Shortly after his last real hockey game, fans who once pronounced him the next face of the franchise hoped he would someday walk again, never mind lead a professional sports team.
A little over eight months ago, watching television was too overwhelming for the brain of Patrice Bergeron. Oh what a difference eight months can make. The captain had two assists in the Bruins 5-4 season-opening win in Colorado against the veteran Avalanche.
Phil Kessel started the scoring in the first as he was able to drift into the middle of the slot and blast a wrist shot past the glove of Peter Budaj. Bergeron and Andrew Ference were credited with the assists.
After Zdeno Chara was called for boarding, Milan Hejduk managed to put the puck by Tim Thomas to tie the game at one. 48 seconds later, Blake Wheeler was able to finish a beautiful odd man rush from Chuck Kobasew and David Krejci to register his first career tally. As Kobasew was spun down, he managed to find Krejci who made the extra pass to the 6’4” Wheeler who stuffed it home to put the B’s up 2-1.
After a hooking penalty on Ference with under seven minutes remaining in the period, Aaron Ward started the penalty kill by flipping the puck over the boards in the Bruins zone for a delay of game. The Bruins would have a 1:56 5-on-3 to kill off. Thanks largely in part to more Thomas acrobatics, the Bruins nearly escaped the longest 1:56 of the game unscathed. As the guilty parties were returning from the sin bin, Wojtek Wolski managed to squeak one by Thomas to again lock it up at 2-2 after one.
After exchanging goals in the second, including Bergeron’s second assist on a Marc Savard goal, the game entered the final frame tied three-all. Despite being out-shot and seemingly outplayed the entire game, the Bruins were in position to ride Tim Thomas to a 1-0 start.
The Bruins entered the third a man down after Blake Wheeler was sent to the box late in second. The Bruins were able to kill off the penalty and newcomer Michael Ryder was able to turn that momentum into the go-ahead goal early in the final period. Savard and P.J Axelsson were in on the assist, and the Bruins were now in control…for about five minutes.
Refusing to go down without a fight, Colorado’s Jordan Leopold was able to skate in untouched to a long rebound off of Thomas and beat him with a snapshot glove-side. The ping pong match continued, and it was now the Bruins’ serve.
Youngster Milan Lucic managed to control the puck deep into the Colorado zone before finding Kobasew cruising into the slot. Kobasew found Krecji with a beautifully times touch pass that Krecji was able to redirect to the back of the net. The Colorado crowd had the thin air sucked right out of them. This one was essentially over.
After a tripping penalty to Bergeron with just under two minutes left, Colorado turned on the jets and applied constant pressure on Thomas and the Bruins defense. Thomas stopped a succession of shots in the final seconds and managed to escape with a 5-4 win.
This is what they had in mind when they made “The New NHL:” Back and forth action with no clear winner decided until the final seconds. Despite giving up four goals, Thomas deserves much of the credit in this one, as he turned away 35 shots. It wasn’t the prettiest win, as the B’s were out-shot 39-20, including a 20-5 deficit in the first period.
The Bruins have three more road games (with the next one Saturday against the Wild) before their home opener against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins on October 20th. This Wednesday is the game to look for, with the B’s traveling back to enemy territory to try and redeem the Game 7 bludgeoning they took at the hands of the Canadiens.