EditorsNote: Deletes “in his first game with his new team” in notes
New kids help Bruins top Predators
BOSTON — The Boston Bruins stayed away from the free agent and trade markets in the offseason, electing instead to ride with their younger players and play at a quicker pace.
It was only one game, but so far, so good.
Jake DeBrusk, playing in his first NHL game, and Charlie McAvoy, in his first regular-season game after debuting in the 2017 playoffs, both had a goal and an assist and the Bruins held off the Nashville Predators 4-3 in the season-opening game for both teams on Thursday night.
“We’re pleased,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after Boston’s sixth win in the past seven openers. “They all had good moments, they all had learning moments throughout the course of the game, as we expected, but they stayed with it. They’re good players and obviously helped us win a hockey game.”
In addition to the two points apiece by DeBrusk and McAvoy, Anders Bjork notched an assist in his first NHL game.
Veteran David Krejci matched his career best with three assists, the eighth time he had three helpers in a game and the first time since March 15, 2014.
Tuukka Rask stopped 26 shots in the victory.
David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand (empty net) also scored for the Bruins.
Viktor Arvidsson, Scott Hartnell and Filip Forsberg scored for the Predators, last year’s Stanley Cup runner-up — Nashville getting two late power-play goals with Pekka Rinne pulled (one on a six-on-three) to pull close in the final minute.
“I don’t think we played to our potential at all,” Arvidsson said, via the Tennessean. “I think we were lacking in execution and speed and almost everything.”
Rinne, who carried the Predators into the finals last season, made 28 saves in the loss. Ryan Johansen had two assists for Nashville.
“They were faster than us,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “Speed. They were quicker than us, they were hungrier. They were ready to play.
“It’s a good look in the mirror, I think. A good look in the mirror.”
DeBrusk’s goal, which made the game 2-1 in favor of the Bruins, brought tears to the eyes of his dad, former NHL journeyman Louie DeBrusk, a broadcaster who flew in from Edmonton with his family for the game and was shown on the big screen cheering the goal.
“Well, he’s known as a tough guy, but I heard that there were some tears coming from him,” the younger DeBrusk said. “So, it’s a very emotional time, but I’ll be chirping him for a couple of years to come. That’s for sure.”
Asked about scoring in his first game, DeBrusk said, “Pretty surreal, to be honest. It was one that I’ll never forget, that’s for sure. A little bit of a blur at the moment. Was just trying to make a quick move, and it went in, and the crowd went pretty loud, so I’ll never forget that feeling.”
DeBrusk and McAvoy became the first Bruins to both score in their NHL debut since 1949.
“It’s awesome. It’s awesome for the three of us to kind of get that out of the way and now you can roll, kind of,” McAvoy said. “Points aren’t everything, that’s for sure, but for offensive guys like Jake and Anders and myself — I try and contribute — sometimes the hardest thing to do is to get that zero out of there on the point column.
“We came out of the gate pretty hot there, and I’m very happy. I’m very happy for Jake, very happy for Anders to get their first points, and I’m just thrilled that we walk out of there with two points.”
The Bruins, already missing several players, lost Noel Acciari to an upper-body injury in the second period, though Cassidy got confused after the game when talking to the media.
“He’s a lower body. I forget what they — upper body?” he said. “Depends if he’s waving at you or if he’s tying his shoes, I guess. I know he’s going to be out for a little bit. I don’t know the exact extent, but we don’t anticipate having him in Monday. I messed that up, they told me on the walk over here, but my mind was on something else. I apologize.”
NOTES: The Bruins announced C/RW David Backes will miss at least the first three to four weeks of the season with diverticulitis and is being treated at Massachusetts General Hospital. He will be re-evaluated in two weeks, according to the club. ... Boston was also missing C Patrice Bergeron (lower body), D Torey Krug (jaw) and C Austin Czarnik (illness). ... C Nick Bonino, who signed a four-year free agent contract, made his Predators debut after missing the preseason continuing his rehab of a broken leg, but Nashville will be without D Ryan Ellis (knee) for four to six months. ... The Bruins sent D Emil Johansson to the minors. ... Nashville LW Cody McLeod had his 65th fight since the start of 2013-14, by far the most in the league over that span.