Despite the long lockout, the Boston Bruins appeared to be in midseason form in winning their opener. They should have a good chance to make it two in a row with the Winnipeg Jets in town Monday.
The Bruins look to make it 11 straight home victories over a Jets team that, in contrast, looked rusty in dropping its first game.
Boston got goals from Milan Lucic, Daniel Paille and Johnny Boychuk and a strong performance from Tuukka Rask in net as it defeated the New York Rangers 3-1 on Saturday. The Bruins outshot the Rangers 34-21 and played a physical and sound defensive game despite the long layoff.
Twelve Bruins played in Europe during the lockout, more than any other team.
"It really helped with my conditioning,'' said Boychuk, who played in Austria. "It's good that a lot of guys went over there and got the feel of game play instead of sitting around doing nothing.''
Boston's conditioning appeared to be a factor in holding New York scoreless on a 5-on-3 power play with the Bruins up one in the third period.
For one game at least, Rask appeared up to the challenge of replacing two-time Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas, who is sitting out the season.
"I don't really have any complaints about anyone on our team tonight, because I thought from top to bottom we were a pretty good hockey club," coach Claude Julien told the team's official website.
Julien also can't complain about how his team has fared against the Winnipeg/Atlanta franchise at home of late, as the Bruins' win streak in the series in Boston dates to Dec. 31, 2007. The Bruins, though, have lost two of the last three matchups, falling 4-2 in the most recent one Feb. 17.
For the Jets to end their road skid against the Bruins, they'll have to be much more sharp than they were in a 4-1 loss to Ottawa on Saturday. Winnipeg was outshot 37-28 and appeared to fade in the third, when they were outscored 2-0 and outshot 13-8.
"We had things going our way and did the simple things and kept the pace up pretty well,'' said defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who gave the Jets the lead six minutes into the game. "We quit getting the bounces in the second and third and let them get ahead. At times, I felt it was sloppy. It's something where we're going to have to keep working and playing as a group. It's only one game.''
Winnipeg, though, would like to avoid a repeat of its staggering start last season, when it dropped its first three games and five of six.
Rask hasn't had great results in his three starts against the Jets since the club's move from Atlanta, going 1-2-0 with a 3.05 goals-against average.
Bryan Little had three goals for Winnipeg as it split the 2011-12 season series with Boston 2-2. David Krejci had a goal and three assists for the Bruins.