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Bruins youth movement on display in season-opening win vs. Predators

The Boston Bruins were without veteran forwards Patrice Bergeron and David Backes on Thursday. And yet they still held on for a 4-3 victory over the defending Western Conference champions from Nashville.

This eventually changed with Brad Marchand’s late third-period goal (and the winner, as it turned out), but for the longest time in this game, the oldest player to score for the Bruins was David Pastrnak. At the age of 21.

He celebrated that birthday in May, right after a breakout 34-goal season that earned him a long-term deal at six years and a total of $40 million. On a night the Bruins were missing two important, experienced players in Bergeron and Backes, it was Boston’s youth movement that came to the forefront with a productive outing.

It started with Pastrnak and his power play blast before the midway point of the first period. That’s a good start for him after entering this season with added pressure thanks to that lucrative deal. It continued with the first career NHL goals for Jake DeBrusk, playing in his first career game with the big club, and Charlie McAvoy, who also had an assist on Boston’s opening goal.

That’s a promising sign for the Bruins, albeit after one game. Bergeron, one of the best two-way forwards in the game, and Backes are important pieces in Boston’s lineup, but when they were not available, the Bruins’ future stepped into the spotlight and delivered against an opponent with high expectations for this season.

And remember, DeBrusk was taken in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft, when the Bruins management was criticized for a rather curious trio of selections in that opening round — Jakub Zboril, DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn — when someone like Mathew Barzal was still on the board.

DeBrusk finished this game with two points. McAvoy not only scored a key goal to expand Boston’s lead in the second period, but he played 22 minutes.

Those are performances the Bruins must be pleased with. Yes, it’s just one game, and the key moving forward will be to get those outings on a consistent basis.

Still, despite some anxious moments at the end, it’s a positive start.