Well, that was an evening I don't think I'll ever forget. To have an NHL team, the team I watch online, the team with the most history in the NHL, that's certainly not something that comes to Ireland too often. But there I was, 20 rows from Milan Lucic, fan-favourite Zdeno Chara, Tyler Seguin, right within what was almost touching distance. Being a New Jersey Devils fan was put to one side, for just a game. Seeing an NHL team was a novelty that I am blessed to have just had, and an Eastern Conference rival could have my attention for just one night.
Right from the off, a very noisy Odyssey welcomed the stars of today's hockey world and soon realised that their very own Belfast Giants (with a few extras) were not far off the pace.
Much to even my own surprise, It was nice to see our goalie, Stevie Murphy make some timely saves and not give up any bad rebounds. He was inspired, and at only 5'9", from Dundee saving shots from the household names, brought that joyful smile to every Irishman's face.
However, don't let the sources you read think that the Bruins totally dominated this game; it's most definitely not the case. Belfast were more than able to keep up, more than able to dish a hit. Ok, the Bruins had more shots, and maybe more (power-play) chances but on the overall, it was only a lapse in concentration that led to goals. The same can be said for both teams.
From the start, it took the Bruins a few minutes to get used to the size of the ice, and it must be said, Mr. Chara doesn't look all that effective on a bigger rink.
The first 20 minutes was a period of attrition. The Bruins had the upper hand as it took the star-struck Belfast team time to get up to the pace of the game, and to actually get the lines and flow in order. You must remember that the team they were up against was a Belfast Select, so there was some teething issues for the first ten minutes. On an aside, there was one hilarious sequence where Belfast had 6 men on the ice for a good 30 seconds, and got away with it...
The shots that Tuukka Rask faced for the first period were few and far between, and none of the shots really had much venom on them, but of course the usual ooohhh's and ahhhhh's came from the Elite League dominated crowd.
During the first intermission, I looked over at my Dad and he gave me the look he usually gives when he has something prophetic to say, stating that he felt the Belfast team would be first on the board. Like all knowledgeable Dads, he was right. A total lack of concentration from, I think, Dennis Sidenburg, missed a puck at the point which led to a break down ice. Jade Galbraithe skated hard down the left, and with a right-handed shot, sniped Tuukka two inches under the crossbar. Take it from me, it was the pick of the goals of the night.
1-0 Belfast. The crowd, the noise, the semi state of shock around the arena; unforgettable. But there was my Dad again, letting me know that we've just awoken an NHL team.
Again, he was right.
The Belfastmen were on a high for the following 2 shifts(and who would deny them that), but unfortunately, they were unable to keep it together and took a pretty poor penalty, I think I recall it being a trip. Boston scored a scrappy goal, and the rookie Seguin(who looks a very handy player) got it, with the help of some bodies in front of net.
Just had I sat down in my seat and Boston had a second goal, this time Chara scores on a messy play around the net. From what I could see, the puck just about crept over the line. Then, a third goal before the end of the second period pretty much killed the game as a contest. Brad Marchand (who looked pretty good tonight) wristed a beautiful shot right over Murphy's shoulder making it 3-1 at the end of 2. Of course it had been scored due to a poor clearance out of the zone.
The Giants had their chances that period, with a few goal-mouth scrambles in front of the net but were unlucky not to convert. The beginning of the third they were on top and looking to get a goal back. Boston however weathered the storm, and had different ideas.
Milan Lucic picked up the puck in a very fortunate position in front of the net, and scored, beating a hung-out-to-dry Murphy to make it 4-1.
Late on, a dubious penalty shot was given to the Bruins, after Tyler Seguin (who was Boston's best player) broke from a turnover. To me, I didn't think he deserved a penalty shot, but the NHL referee had no qualms and pointed to the centre circle.
The first deke froze Murphy as Seguin faked forehand and slid the puck just inside the left post on his backhand; a silky penalty shot.
The last two minutes played out as though the Giants were the victors on the night. The capacity crowd were amazing.
To be fair, everybody won.
A big thank you must go to the NHL, Todd Kelman, and my Dad. Without any of them, tonight would not have been one of the most memorable of my life.
Thanks very much.