By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON Why cant the Bruins and Stars play every night?
The unlikely rivals have developed an intense hatred for each other, built on some epically brutal games over the last few seasons -- including the famous game two seasons ago when both teams racked up 36 penalties for 146 combined penalty minutes and seven misconducts. Dallas and Boston added another gloriousOld Time Hockey chapter on Thursday night in a brawling6-3 Bruins victory at the TD Garden.
The only things missing were "the foil" and a good, old-fashioned brouhaha pouring out into the zamboni entrance.This one started out about settling an old score, but turned into one of Bostons signature victories of the season. It came during a stretch when the Bruins have gone 9-3 in their last 12 games and made significant moves up the charts in the Eastern Conference.
One of Bostons leaders within the dressing room said there was little doubt that the throwdown with Steve Ott and Sean Avery in 2008 a game that those Bruins pointed to as an early turning point in the season was still fresh on their minds when the Stars took the ice this time around. The Bruins went an amazing 23-2-1 in the 26 games following that contest two seasons ago, and have to hope for the same kind of bump after this one.
The only difference: That fight night from two seasons ago was in the opening month of the season. This time it was about two hockey teams battling their way through the February doldrums.
Well, that was almost like we just continued the game from the last time the Stars were in Boston. I mean we talked about it before the game, said Andrew Ference. Its about going out and starting like that. The fact that they have a team thats similar to ours, they can go out and get their noses dirty, and being in the West, as tight as it is, you know theyre desperate for wins here. I think they dropped a few of their recent games. Its what we expected, but not exactly what we planned, but thats the way it shakes out.
Simply said, Steve Ott and the Stars have a habit of poking theangrybear in the cage. And the Bruins play their best brand of hockey when somebody pokes at them in a challening fashion.
The poke happened right off the bat when Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton switched positions on the opening face-off, and Campbell lined up beside Ott at the wing position for a heated conversation.
That led to both players dropping the gloves and throwing themselves into an immediate fight a round of fisticuffs that the hockey code dictated Ott indulge after he had committed a brutal charging hit at Campbell two years ago when the Bs center was playing for the Florida Panthers."When you're up playingagainst the Steve Otts and Sean Averys of the world, then you tend to play the same way," said Campbell.
Ott got the best of Campbell and bloodied his nose badly, but several Bruins players privately chafed at Ott after the game as the Dallas troublemaker acted as if he didnt want to fight Campbell and then immediately punched Campbell in the nose when there was a sliver of an opening.
That led to Shawn Thornton stepping in to change the momentum after the first fight, and the Bs enforcer did just that while hammering Krystofer Barch with a flurry of powerful rights and lefts that stunned the Dallas forward.
Two fights in two seconds. The aggressive, physical Stars tried to trump Thorntons triumph by engaging in a third and final fight four seconds into the game, and this is where the momentum finally and decisively flipped toward Bostons direction. Brian Sutherby was manhandled by 6-foot-5 Adam McQuaid, who continually gets underestimated by opponents because of the puffy curls of hair underneath his helmet and his easy-going Prince Edward Island smile.
But beneath McQuaid's exterior is one bad, tough dude who knows how to throw them. He hit Sutherby with overhand rights, uppercuts and dropped the Dallas skater to the ice in the most decisive fight of the three. "We knew they were a physical team and we wanted to show werent going to back down," said McQuaid. "We got things started there and it went from there."
Less than five minutes into the first, Andrew Ference pounded Adam Burish for shooting a puck at Tuukka Rask after he was off-sides and the Bruins had already seemingly won before the game was even close to halfway complete.
All that fighting might have been for naught, however, if the Bruins couldnt put together some offense, and they did just with their two best scorers stepping up when the Big Bad Bruins needed them most. Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron both banged home early goals, and never trailed in a game that showed how tight the Bruins are as a team and showed just how good the Bs can be against one of the best that the Western Conference has to offer.
That is a huge thing for our team, said Blake Wheeler. I think in the past certainly teams have tried to come in and push us around in this building and that is when we are at our best. Teams try to play that game with us and that is when we play our best hockey.
It is a credit to those guys who stood up for our team and kind of stood up for our home ice. And the rest of the guys kind of picked up the momentum and got us that big lead.
Bostons win over Dallas two years ago was a signal to the rest of the NHL that the Big Bad Bruins werent about to be pushed around, and every game against them was going to be a painful one to be approached with caution.
That message remained the exact same two years later against the Stars for a Bruins team looking to make a statement within the final 30 games of the regular season and doing as much talking with their fists and shoulders as their sticks.