The Bruins’ first goal of the 48-game season was by design.
In the first period of Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Rangers at TD Garden, David Krejci hauled in a long-distance pass from Andrew Ference. Krejci, stickhandling on the right wing, spotted a blur of black streaking down the other side of the ice.
Krejci didn’t waste any time. The center aimed a slap shot far pad. As Krejci expected, Henrik Lundqvist kicked out the shot with his right pad. But because Milan Lucic was choo-chooing down the left side, the left wing was in the right spot to tap in the rebound before Lundqvist could recover.
“I looked that there was somebody coming,” Krejci said following Sunday’s practice at the Garden. “I just tried to shoot wide for a big rebound. It worked.”
Management and the coaching staff didn’t know how Lucic, Krejci, and Nathan Horton would perform early. Lucic didn’t play during the lockout. Horton didn’t dress after Jan. 22, 2012, because of a concussion.
The game-opening goal indicated the power of Krejci’s line in the season opener. Krejci was decisive with the puck. Lucic and Horton skated swiftly and played north-south hockey.
When they struggle, the three forwards don’t skate well. Their collective presence suffers. On Saturday, they sprinted without governors on their engines.
“I think they both played well,” coach Claude Julien said of Lucic and Horton. “Milan, what he brought was what we expect out of Milan. He was driving the net. He was a presence out there. He was physical. You could see he had his mean face on. That’s what makes him such a good player. Nathan was going in the corners, battling. He didn’t fear anything. When the guy hasn’t played in a year for concussion reasons, those are good signs. Conditioning-wise, I thought he did a great job of keeping the pace up from start to finish.”
The driver to Horton’s game is skating. When the right wing is moving, he finishes checks, finds openings, and puts himself in position for scoring chances. Horton’s game shrinks when he’s stationary and passive.
The latter was a worry because of the concussion and the long layoff. But Horton (two shots, two hits, 16:02 of ice time) eliminated those concerns by playing a hard-charging opener.
“I had a lot of energy in the third,” Horton said. “I was still enjoying myself. I just want to concentrate on moving my feet at all times with and without the puck. Get in on the forecheck and hit. If I’m going to get hit, I’m going to get hit. Just fight for that puck and go to the net.
“I feel really strong, like I can stand in front of the net and people can’t move me. That’s where I want to be. That’s where a lot of the goals are scored.”
Daniel Paille made the most of his 19 shifts against the Rangers. In the second period, Paille started a defensive-zone breakout. At the other end, Paille tipped a Gregory Campbell shot past Lundqvist for the Bruins’ second goal.
“He came back with a lot of confidence,” Julien said of Paille’s lockout performance in Finland. “With Dan, it’s always been about confidence. We know he can skate well. He’s got some good tools.
“In junior, he had some decent numbers. It’s more about confidence. He’s been skating really well throughout the whole camp.
“He’s had some good jump. [Saturday] night, he showed that.”
Later in the game, Paille took several shifts on the third line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. Paille had earned them.
When the Bruins re-signed Paille to a three-year, $3.9 million extension last May, general manager Peter Chiarelli noted the left wing’s ability to move up in the lineup.
Because of his speed and pace, Paille could push Chris Bourque for regular shifts on the third line.
“He really served the purpose well in all areas,” Julien said. “As long as he plays like that, he’s going to get the ice time that he got.”
The Bruins recalled Aaron Johnson from Providence Sunday. Johnson had been sent to Providence on a conditioning loan. The ex-Columbus defenseman appeared in two games and recorded one assist. Johnson practiced with the varsity Sunday and should be the spare defenseman Monday against Winnipeg. David Warsofsky was assigned to Providence. The Marshfield native was a healthy scratch for the season opener. “What you don’t like doing is keeping those young guys not playing,” Julien said. “They’re so close by that if need be, it’s easier to call them up knowing they’ve played and they have a bigger impact than if they’d been sitting around a few weeks.” . . . The Bruins used part of Sunday’s practice to work on the five-on-three power play. The Bruins were 0 for 7 on the power play against the Rangers. They put nine shots on goal. In the third, Krejci nearly scored a power-play goal. But Lundqvist dived to snare the puck. Referees Tom Kowal and Chris Lee said no goal. Video review was inconclusive, although Lundqvist’s glove appeared to cross the line. “The thing I took out of [it] was that our power play had some chances,” said Julien. “It didn’t take away any momentum. Those kinds of things are good, positive things to happen.” . . . Lane MacDermid and Jay Pandolfo were the extra forwards in practice.