The future of the Bruins is now the present. Suddenly, the past few seasons of uninspired hockey here in Boston seem worth it.
Powered by rookie goal scorers Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy, the B’s broke open a tight game in the second period and held on for an impressive 4-3 victory in their season opener against the visiting Nashville Predators.
The Bruins were without their best player, Patrice Bergeron, and key veterans David Backes and Torey Krug. But the holes throughout the lineup didn’t matter, thanks in large part to the strong play of DeBrusk, McAvoy and young sniper David Pastrnak.
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Pastrnak opened the scoring on the power play near the midway mark of the first period. The 21-year-old, former first-round draft pick (25th overall in 2014) one-timed a McAvoy feed past the blocker of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
The sequence began when McAvoy, carrying the puck at the left point, flubbed a would-be pass to Pastrnak. But McAvoy, 19, seemingly always cool under pressure, kept the play moving by regaining possession and swapping positions with Pastrnak before delivering a pass right in his teammate’s wheelhouse.
The Bruins controlled the bulk of the play in the first period. Nashville didn’t register a single shot over the first 12 minutes, but still managed to tie the game with only 11 seconds remaining when Pastrnak misplayed a David Krejci faceoff win in the defensive zone. The Predators seized on the momentum swing to start the second period.
That’s when DeBrusk (drafted 14th overall in 2015) and McAvoy (14th overall in 2016) stepped up and put the Bruins in control.
DeBrusk, 20, making his NHL debut and skating on a line with Krejci and Pastrnak, scored his first career goal roughly six minutes into the middle period. Catching Nashville on a line change, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask triggered a nifty, four-pass sequence up the ice that ended when Krejci dished to DeBrusk in the slot. The rookie didn’t waste the opportunity, shifting to his forehand and beating Rinne’s right pad.
McAvoy made it a two-goal lead for Boston later in the period with his first career goal. The strike came on a rush through the neutral zone and was also the result of a setup by Krejci (three assists on the night). DeBrusk and McAvoy each finished with a goal and an assist, while fellow rookie Anders Bork added a helper of his own.
By the third period, Nashville was finally buzzing the Bruins net. Rask was up for the challenge, however, and Brad Marchand’s empty netter with less than three minutes remaining appeared to put the game out of reach.
Things got interesting when Nashville potted two late power play goals to draw within one. It was, stunningly, the first time all game the young Bruins might have truly missed Bergeron.
In the end, Marchand’s goal stood up as the difference. And thanks to the impressive play of three former first-round picks, the Bruins have their first win of the season.