Charlie McAvoy’s season debut mirrored that of Brad Marchand’s, from the wink-wink arrival to a goal that brought down the house.
McAvoy’s second-period strike was the winner in a 3-1 slugfest victory over the Flames Thursday night at TD Garden.
So what’s next for these Bruins? Coach Jim Montgomery suggested that when injured netminder Jeremy Swayman returns, he’ll put up a shutout. When defenseman Derek Forbort comes back, he’ll score a hat trick.
“It’s just great, isn’t it?” Montgomery said. “It just seems like for whatever reason, the stars are falling in line here.”
The Bruins, the last remaining unbeaten team at home (8-0-0), tied the franchise record to start a season set by the 1983-84 club. Their next home game is 6 p.m. Sunday against Vancouver, after a Saturday date in Buffalo.
Offense was hard to come by Thursday, but the Bruins (12-2-0) had Linus Ullmark (31 saves) and the league’s top-rated penalty kill, which rebuffed all six Calgary power plays.
Ullmark’s most flashy stop was a split-legged glove stop in the third, when Adam Ruzicka fired through a screen and the netminder had little time to react. Elsewhere, he was tranquil as a frozen pond.
“I’m very calm behind the bench when the puck’s in our end,” Montgomery said, noting his confidence in the penalty kill, in the defensive-zone coverage, and in Ullmark (10-1-0, 1.95 goals-against average, .936 save percentage).
Connor Clifton and David Pastrnak (empty net, his ninth in 14 games) also scored.
Calgary (5-6-2), which lost its seventh in a row (0-5-2), has taken a lead in six of those losses. Their best player on Thursday was former Bruins backup Dan Vladar, who stopped 25 pucks and helped kill all five Boston power plays.
The visitors struck first, amid an opening period in which they racked up a 12-6 shots advantage in the first 16 minutes.
At 2:42 of the first, Clifton went off for holding Brett Ritchie. As Clifton was leaving the box, Norwood-bred defenseman Noah Hanifin had room at the point. He sailed a wrister past a screened Ullmark at 4:43.
Clifton got it back about 12 minutes later. Praised this week by Montgomery for having no red light, a little yellow light, and mostly green light in his game, the defenseman stepped up to receive a back-diagonal pass from Tomas Nosek.
Vladar stretched his 6-foot-5-inch frame to get a glove on Clifton’s first attempt, but Clifton, with Nick Foligno driving the net, followed his shot and deposited it upstairs, over a sprawling Vladar at 16:38.
Clifton later threw the body on all-time Bruins fan favorite Milan Lucic, a play the Garden crowd loved. On NESN, Jack Edwards noted that the hit came right by the “Mike Van Ryn memorial pane of glass.”
“Two big bodies going at it,” deadpanned Clifton, listed at 5-11 and 195 pounds. Lucic, the veteran heavyweight, goes 6-3, 240.
With Clifton on the scoreboard, the only active Bruins without a goal are Nosek, Brandon Carlo, and Jakub Zboril.
McAvoy was on that list, but he put a strike through his name with 1:33 left in the second period.
Pavel Zacha, playing in his 400th game, went cross-seam to McAvoy as a power play expired. The defenseman loaded a wrister and fired blocker-side through a Foligno screen to put the Bruins up by a goal.
“You can’t make that stuff up,” Clifton said. “What a deserving guy. We’re real lucky to have him back.”
That capped a second period that featured little else in the way of attack from the Bruins — they went nearly 10 minutes without a shot on goal, finishing with just three at five on five — some golden Calgary scoring chances, and some stellar work from Ullmark.
Early in the second, Flames winger Andrew Mangiapane had half of the net open on a rebound from Mikael Backlund. As Ullmark dove with his stick, Mangiapane hit the side of the net.
On a Calgary power play (a falling Carlo tripped Canton’s Kevin Rooney at 2:20), Ullmark made a shorthanded glove stop on Dillon Dube when the Calgary winger was sent in clear from the hashmarks. The Bruins netminder also denied Backlund on a chance from the slot.
After Matt Grzelcyk high-sticked Tyler Toffoli at 12:02, the PK, now up to a blistering 94.1 percent, got lucky when Toffoli missed a wide-open net from the circle. Calgary’s No. 73 looked to the rafters and held his stick on top of his helmet in disbelief.
After that penalty expired, Zboril drew a trip from Mackenzie Weegar on a nothing-doing rush into the teeth of Calgary’s defense. Zboril was one on four, as his teammates were changing.
The Bruins had that power-play chance, and another (Charlie Coyle drew a hold on Dube), before McAvoy struck at even strength.
What is the Bruins’ training staff giving the players before they return from injuries?
“TLC, baby,” said McAvoy, who became the Bruins’ 18th different goal scorer in 14 games. “Confidence, mostly, in where you’re at and the hard work you’ve done.”
Speaking of hard work: the Bruins praised Foligno, who was in the dirty areas on the first two goals and stood up for a teammate.
Early in the third, Rooney slammed Nosek into the end boards, narrowly avoiding a boarding call. The Bruins center was shaken up. Foligno pounded Rooney in a one-sided fight.
“He’s been awesome. It’s been so fun to watch everybody put it on display,” McAvoy said. “It’s not the same people every night. It’s everybody pulling the rope. That’s what it takes to win.”