BOSTON (AP) — Now in his 10th NHL season, Chris Kelly doesn’t get goose bumps the way he used to.
But the Boston Bruins forward confessed to a bit of insomnia as he prepared for opening night against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“The home opener is always enjoyable,” Kelly said after scoring the game-winner in Boston’s 2-1 victory over the Flyers on Wednesday night. “I didn’t get any sleep. I was excited. It felt good, especially for the first home game.”
Kelly scored the tiebreaker with 1:51 left in the third period, and Tuukka Rask made 21 saves to help the Bruins win their third consecutive season opener. Reilly Smith also scored for Boston, which finished with the best record in the NHL last season but couldn’t get past the second round of the playoffs.
Sean Couturier scored for Philadelphia, and Steve Mason stopped 31 shots.
It was 1-all when Mason deflected Adam McQuaid’s slap shot from the blue line into the air. The puck came down in the crease, and Kelly swiped it in while Boston’s Loui Eriksson also had a shot at it.
“I just wanted to go out there and feel good and enjoy it,” said Kelly, who missed the playoffs last year with a herniated disk. “Last year was taken away from me and made me realize how much I missed the game and want to be out there playing. I just tried to enjoy the whole night and tried to play my game. For sure, there’s no better feeling.”
Another sellout, the 214th in a row, filled the TD Garden. But the crowd seemed to be still getting over last season’s playoff loss to the rival Montreal Canadiens by a Boston team that had reached the Stanley Cup finals in 2013 and then totaled 114 points in 2013-14.
During the offseason, the Bruins lost Jarome Iginla — their leading goal-scorer from last season — and Shawn Thornton, and last week defenseman Johnny Boychuk was traded to the New York Islanders.
The Flyers are in their 40th season since back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and ’75.
“They always have a solid team. No matter who is in their lineup, they play the exact same way,” said Philadelphia forward Wayne Simmonds. “We were a little bit jittery for probably the first period and a half, and it cost us.”
The Bruins scored on a power play at 10:39 of the first when Carl Soderberg muscled around the back of the net and then passed across to Smith.
It stayed 1-0 until 4 minutes into the third, when the Flyers put some pressure on Rask and finally beat him. Jakub Voracek came out from behind the net and whipped the puck across to Couturier, who deflected it in.
Boston’s Bobby Robins, 32, played in his first NHL game. He had played 499 games in the U.S. minor leagues and in Europe after going to college at UMass-Lowell.
“It was awesome,” said Robins, whose wife and 11-month-old daughter, Libby, were in the stands. “After nine years to have that happen was a dream come true, and to play here at the Garden … it was a very special feeling; I’ll never forget it.”
He also got into his first fight, tangling with Luke Schenn in the second period.
“I know the brand of hockey these Boston fans like, and I just hope to be able to provide that. And to get that kind of reception was a great feeling,” said Robins, who chatted with Schenn in the penalty box. “He was asking if it was my first NHL game. So, I said, ‘Yeah.’ He just said, ‘Good fight’ — the normal stuff guys say after a fight.”
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