The emotions in TD Garden Saturday afternoon were reminiscent of Wednesday night when the Bruins played for the first time since the Boston Marathon bombings.
The fans were passionate once again, the appreciation for the first responders even greater as a result of Friday’s intense manhunt.
During warm-ups, Bruins players wore baseball caps instead of helmets, with logos representing the Boston, Watertown, and Massachusetts State police departments.
Dozens of signs in the stands reflected not only gratitude — “Thank you police’’ placards were prominent – but steely resolve as the “Boston Strong’’ motto continued to take hold.
Bruins forward Brad Marchand said that although the atmosphere was similar to Wednesday’s game, it was a little bit different, too.
“We felt the same way as last game,’’ said Marchand, who had Boston’s first goal in the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Penguins. “With the ceremony and all the police and firemen in the building, it was a special time again. It was a little more of a celebration with everyone here tonight. It was more of an opportunity for us to thank them and to give our respects for the amazing job they did with taking [the suspect] into custody and cleaning up the streets.
“It just seems like there was a whole different aura around the building tonight. Everyone was a little more safe and excited that it’s over.’’
Marchand said the team has done a very good job harnessing its emotions during a very difficult week, trying to turn a negative into a positive as much as it was able.
“That’s what we’ve tried to do,’’ said Marchand. “We want to try to give the city something to believe in and something to look forward to with watching our games and everything. But it would’ve been a little nicer if we got a couple of wins.
“I think for the most part, the city was able to take their minds off everything for a couple of hours and watch our games.’’
Marchand said despite all the tension in the city and the terrible circumstances surrounding the bombings, it hasn’t been hard to focus.
“It’s something that is very easy to get up for,’’ he said. “We were all very excited for the opportunity to do that. It’s definitely not something that is draining or anything like that at all.’’
The Bruins got off to a terrific start against the Penguins, channeling the emotion into action, but they couldn’t generate enough offense.
“We definitely built a lot of momentum off that,’’ said Marchand. “We came out very hard and had a great start. We carried that through pretty much the whole game. Again, we didn’t get the result.’’
For the Penguins, who graciously agreed to wear Boston Strong shirts and hats before the game, it was a moving day to be in the building. The pregame ceremony included photos of the marathon aftermath and the first responders stepping up to help.
“I think that anyone who is human finds some emotion in that,’’ said former Boston College defenseman Brooks Orpik. “I think that everyone was proud to wear them, excited to wear them. I live here in the summer, so I will probably live here when I am done playing. It was just a good atmosphere to be around.’’
Veteran Jarome Iginla, who was met with boos by the crowd because of his decision to be traded to Pittsburgh rather than Boston, said he had a lot of sympathy for the city and what has transpired over the last week.
“It’s been a very sad and intense week and [Friday] was hard,’’ said Iginla, referring to the area-wide lockdown that resulted in the game being postponed from Friday night to Saturday afternoon. “We knew we weren’t going to play and didn’t know when we were for sure going to play, but it was nice to be able to play today and have the fans here and their reactions.
“As players, you want to give a little bit of a timeout and come and play hard for the fans. Once you get playing, you play as hard as you can, both sides. It was a fun game and the closest to a playoff game that I’ve probably played this season.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.