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Fluto Shinzawa | on hockey

Bruins rookies looked pretty good in their first NHL games

Boston rookie Austin Czarnik (27) controls the puck against Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Brandon Saad (20).Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports

COLUMBUS, Ohio — They watch TV. They go boating. They like to golf.

In some ways, Rob O’Gara (23 years old), Austin Czarnik (23), Danton Heinen (21), and Brandon Carlo (19) are still kids, free from the mortgages, diapers, and school drop-offs occupying the time of their elders. On Thursday, when they reported to Nationwide Arena for their first official night at the office, they dropped off their lunchboxes in their cubbies before hitting the ice.

But in other ways, they are men now. They have stamped Game 1 on their résumés. Jobs are on the line each time they pull on jerseys, a way of life they understand better following a come-from-behind 6-3 win.

“I felt like I got more and more comfortable as the game went on,” said Carlo, who shook off a shorthanded misplay in the first to take more thorough shifts in the third. “I started making a couple less mistakes. Overall, I felt pretty good out there. As a young guy, I’m going to have some mistakes out there. But I felt like I recovered well by the end.”

Carlo skated with 39-year-old Zdeno Chara on the Bruins’ top pairing. On Nov. 19, 1997, Chara made his NHL debut against Detroit. Seven days later, Carlo celebrated his first birthday.

The four freshmen in Thursday’s opening lineup marked the most rookies Claude Julien babysat for an opener in the 10 times he’s manned the Bruins bench for a season’s puck drop. The previous high was three in 2014-15, when Ryan Spooner, Craig Cunningham, and Niklas Svedberg dressed for the 2-1, season-opening win over Philadelphia. Even that year, Spooner had played in 27 previous NHL games. Cunningham had two NHL appearances the season before. Svedberg made one Bruins start.

Before Thursday, O’Gara, Czarnik, Heinen, and Carlo combined for zero games of NHL service. In Julien’s nine previous seasons, only four players with no NHL experience made opening rosters: Dougie Hamilton (2012-13), Tyler Seguin (2010-11), Blake Wheeler (2008-09), and Milan Lucic (2007-08).

Part of the youth movement is because of circumstance. Had Kevan Miller (hand) and Adam McQuaid (upper body) been healthy, O’Gara might have started in the AHL. If Frank Vatrano (foot) scored the job of No. 2 left wing, Ryan Spooner might have stayed as third-line center and pushed Czarnik back to Providence. Had the Bruins succeeded in their pursuit of Jimmy Vesey, there may not have been a spot for Heinen.

What is the exception so far under Julien will soon become the rule. The NHL favors young men, partly because of their talent and energy, but also because of their paychecks.

O’Gara is earning $925,000. Czarnik makes $792,500. Heinen’s salary is $767,500. Carlo makes $717,500. It sure beats what most of us made in our first jobs, to say nothing of our current ones. But they’re still sweatshop wages in comparison to the $7.25 million that David Krejci, the Bruins’ high roller, will tuck into his checking account this year. The more entry-level contracts a team has on its books, the more it can offset the dough earned by the stars.

The kids represent cheap labor. But none of the four landed on the varsity roster out of courtesy. Carlo and O’Gara shoved Joe Morrow out of uniform and dropped Colin Miller onto the third pairing. The coaches trusted Czarnik in all situations. Heinen played both wings on different lines.

Jack Johnson (left) is challenged by Danton Heinen in the first period.

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Jack Johnson (left) is challenged by Danton Heinen in the first period.

The regular season, however, is not camp. In Thursday’s first period, the sudden spike in temperature burned Carlo and O’Gara.

Carlo leaned the wrong way while killing a penalty, which opened up a lane for Nick Foligno to find Cam Atkinson at the far post to give Columbus a 2-0 lead. O’Gara got his pocket picked by Matt Calvert, then made things worse by chasing the play instead of shutting it down.

Box score: Bruins 6, Blue Jackets 3

Their boss noticed.

Every player makes mistakes. What separates the men from boys is how the former respond after errors. Veterans submit their best shift right after a bad one. Kids panic after a goof and dig themselves deeper into holes.

What encouraged Julien was how Carlo and O’Gara parked their first-period jitters. Of Carlo’s 17:48 of play, 6:41 took place in the third. O’Gara contributed 4:45 in the third to finish with 13:12 of ice time.

“Probably a little nervous at the beginning,” Julien said of the defensemen. “I saw some things I hadn’t seen in the preseason. But then I saw some things from the second period on that I had seen in the preseason. That was solid plays under pressure, making good decisions, and playing with a lot of confidence. If it’s just one period of nervousness, then we’re in good shape with those guys.”

Up front, once the Bruins pulled ahead, 5-3, in the third, Julien shortened his bench. Riley Nash, who started as the No. 4 center, moved up to replace Czarnik on the third line. Dominic Moore, the No. 4 left wing, took Heinen’s place as the second-line right wing. Czarnik finished with 15:11 of ice time, while Heinen played 11:25.

“You get in a tight situation late in the game, you go with a little bit more experience there,” Julien said. “It was great to have. I thought Nash had a good game tonight. Moore can play center, left, or right wing. He came in there and gave us a little more experience on the Krejci line as well. It’s nice to have those options.”

Thursday marked the kids’ first test. They passed.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.