Prior to last night’s 5-1 thrashing of the Stars, Bruins coach Claude Julien  asked Marco Sturm to “be involved more” following Saturday morning’s pre-game skate .
Sturm and the rest of his teammates were all heavily involved in a thrilling fight-fest that moved me to ask if this was the return of the Big, Bad Bruins — or at least as close as they’ll ever get in the kinder, gentler version of the NHL .
The B’s winger didn’t waste any time obliging — and he did so without any need for Draconian punishments like a punitive benching or a red-faced tirades from his hockey coach.
Sturm ended a seven-game scoreless streak with a slapper from the left face-off circle just 2:41 into the first period off a nice behind-the-net dish from rookie Blake Wheeler . The score was Sturm’s second strike of the season and the amazing ninth time this season in 12 games that the Black and Gold have scratched first blood.
The assist on Sturm’s first goal was also the first helper of Wheeler’s NHL  career to go along with the three goals he’s scored over the first dozen games. Sturm added a third period tally to give him the two-goal evening, and the move to pair Sturm with David Krejci  appears to be paying immediate dividends all around.
“It was nice. He needed to react, and not just react but find his game,” said a satisfied Julien after the game. “I thought [Sturm] played better tonight and he was in the right spot, even on that last goal he was in the right place and he buried [his opportunities]. I thought he was a better player tonight.”
The B’s ended up taking the 5-1 decision over the Stars in a very chippy, conentious, entertaining Old Time Hockey-style game that featured Stars agitator Steve Ott twice refusing to drop both his stick and the gloves when Shawn Thornton  and Shane Hnidy circled round looking for a fights — one after a hit aiming for Stephane Yelle’s leg that Lucic later termed “gutless”. Hnidy actually dropped his stick and his gloves to go with Ott, but the 6-foot, 193-pounder thought better of it each time and held his stick vertically to shield himself from his Black and Gold challenger.
Eventually Andrew Ference  and Sean Avery  dropped the gloves after the Bruins defenseman — who earned the Third Star in the win and continues his impressive early season play — leveled Ott with a clean open ice hit in the third period. That hit also turned out to be a big turning point in a game that was still squarely in the close category in the third period.
In the end, the combative game had 177 penalty minutes and seven misconducts and made many spectators wish these two teams played each other again during the regular season.
–The Bruins much-maligned penalty kill unit also looked better after six successful kills of Dallas PP’s throughout Saturday night’s game — a testament to the work they’ve put in to exert more pressure on the points while also just getting tougher aroun their own net.
Julien said before the game that the solution to the PK’s problems were pretty simple: “It’s just being proactive. The puck has to go all the way down [to the other end of the rink] and we’re soft on the puck when it comes time for scoring chances. These are the areas that I think will improve our penalty kill and will improve our goal production.”
For two periods Ott and Sean Avery attempted to draw penalties from annoyed Bruins skaters and their aggravating tactics actually allowed the Stars to gain some man advantage opportunities in the second period. But their agitating, sandpaper ways finally backfired on them and the rest of their Stars teammates in the third period. Avery leveled Milan Lucic  from behind midway through the third in the final coup de grace of what been a pretty dirty production of hockey put on by both Avery and Ott all night — and all heck broke loose at that point.
Marc Savard  came to the aid of the fallen Lucic and started pounding on Avery, and then both players worked over the Vogue intern while separate bouts involving Shane Hnidy and Mark Stuart  took place. Savard, Lucic, Hnidy Mark Stuart, Ott, Avery, Matt Niskanen [how did a peace-loving Fin with zero penalty minutes headed into tonight get involved in all this?] were all done for the night when they each got 10-minute misconducts with less than nine minutes to play.
Apparently even some of Ott and Avery’s teammates had a serious problem with some of the underhanded things they were pulling out on the ice in the third period.
“Tonight it seemed to be idiotic,” said Stars elder statesman Mike Modano. “It’s stupid. It’s one of the more embarrassing things I have seen, on the ice and involved with the fans. In 20 years, I haven’t seen anything like it. If that’s what we’re going for, maybe I need to find myself an office job.”
The Stars were shaking their heads and dropping F-bombs in their locker room while the Bruins seemed a tighter, more resolute bunch after standing together and sticking up for each other.
“It was good to see everybody pile in their and come to my aid, but most importantly we got the win,” said Lucic. “In the end we all stuck up for each other and it’s only going to make us stronger going down the road. It was a good character game and a good character win for us. Savvy came in here after the game saying that he was a killer, but obviously it was nice what he went out there and did.
“Hnidy said to me as we were coming off the ice that it felt like a junior hockey scrum out there, so yeah it felt like Old Time Hockey,” added Lucic. “What we need to do is bottle this up and make sure we have some of it for Thursday [against the Leafs.]”
–Somewhat overlooked in a penalty-filled Saturday night flashback to the glorious days of the Big Bad Bruins was the work of goaltender Tim Thomas , who made 35 saves in the 5-1 victory and was again rock-solid between the pipes. The win was his fourth consecutive start for the Bruins and it would seem he has clearly wrapped up the starter’s role with the B’s. The All-Star goaltender mused that the sketchy Stars must have received the wrong scouting report on the Bruins when they attempted to pull the McFilthy and McNasty routine with penalty box buddies Ott and Avery.
“We’re a clean team, but we’re not going to let anybody push us around or play dirty with us,” said Thomas. “I think we did a good job of sticking up for ourselves and showing what kind of character we have. I don’t know what kind of scouting report they had on us, but I think they picked the wrong team to try to do that to.”
The B’s netminder actually thought he might get involved in the third period donnybrook when beleaguered Stars goalie Marty Turco  skated out toward center ice following the Avery hit from behind on Lucic. Turco has had a terrible season thus far, and it could have been he was looking for the rare-but-always-entertaining goalie scrap. The Dallas goaltender stopped, however, once he saw Thomas make a move near the pile of skating pugilists.
“It’s actually some of the hardest games to play because you get your adrenaline going a little bit even though you try to stay as calm and even-keeled as you can be,” said Thomas. “When Fer [Andrew Ference] got hit and then stood up for himself I got a little excited, and it’s hard to finish out a game that way.
“I wasn’t going to let [Turco] into the pile. It looked to me like he was going to try to get into the pile, so that’s why I skated over to the other side of it,” added Thomas. “I think he’s the one that made the suggestion by coming to center ice, and I just responded by getting over to the other side of the pile and saying ‘I don’t think you’re going to go any further’ and he stayed there. I can’t remember a game like that for a long time…maybe the AHL. I haven’t experienced anything quite like that before.”
–Below I’ve included the transcript of Mike Modano’s comments provided by the crack Bruins media relations staff following Saturday night’s game. It seems that the longtime Dallas Stars forward was none too pleased with his team’s careless lack of discipline in a game that was still close in the third period.
DALLAS STARS FORWARD MIKE MODANO
On the team’s identity
Tonight it seemed to be idiotic. It’s stupid. It’s one of the more embarrassing things I have seen, on the ice and involved with the fans. In twenty years that I haven’t seen anything like it. If that’s what we’re going for maybe I need to find myself an office job.
On the physicality of the game’¦
Yeah, I mean it got out of hand, it was still a 2-1 game and then we find ourselves blowing it again, putting ourselves in trouble with dumb penalties and dumb situations. That’s kind of the trend it’s been all season.
On the cause of the frustration’¦
There isn’t any mental toughness, that’s kind of one of the big things. Everything we’re letting get to us. We’re letting the refs get involved in the game with us. We’re spending more energy on them than the details of winning the game. It’s another thing that’s been a bad part of our game.
On the goaltending performance of both Tobias Stephan and Marty Turco’¦
They’re doing about as best as you can ask for them, but the quality of chances are just like doorstep goals and outnumbered rushes again. You can put two goalies in there; those are still going to go in. You allow those quality type of chances, I don’t care who you have in net.
On trying to fix the team’¦
Well, I don’t know if you can put your finger on something. Moving the puck, I don’t know, practice skating, getting shots on the net, things like that. Defending is probably first and foremost. We come off a couple of hard practices and we have one of our best defensive games of the season against Minnesota. Back to the same old. Less is more sometimes. Just getting the puck out and then getting it in. Hopefully your forecheck can create something for you and go from there. To look to create, there aint nothing there.