BOSTON -- It is too soon to call it a tradition, but it is becoming something of a ritual at TD Garden.
For the second time last week, Rene Rancourt, the longtime national anthem singer at Boston Bruins hockey games, sang the first few lines of "The Star-Spangled Banner," then extended his microphone and allowed spectators to finish the song. The crowd of 17,565 at Saturday afternoon's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins responded as it had before Wednesday night's game between the Bruins and the Buffalo Sabres, belting out the words with gusto.
That led into a long, extended ovation when the anthem was complete, and the applause morphed into a chant of "U-S-A, U-S-A."
Immediately before the anthem, a presentation on the scoreboard video screen had shown images ranging from first responders to scenes from Monday's Boston Marathon to the celebrations that followed Friday night's capture of the second suspect in the Marathon bombings.
"It was a little moving, I think, for everybody, whether you're from here or not," said Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, who spends offseasons in suburban Boston. "Anyone who's human would find some emotion in that."
The Penguins and Bruins had been scheduled to play Friday night, but their game was pushed to Saturday because of the manhunt that effectively shut down the city for most of Friday. (The Penguins won, 3-2. See story on Page D-1.)
The energy generated by the fans before the opening faceoff fueled a strong start by the Bruins -- "It's really awesome playing in front of that kind of a crowd," Boston goalie Tuukka Rask said -- and helped to put the Penguins on their heels early.
"There was a lot of emotion in the building, right from warm-ups," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "I thought the place was very emotional, very charged up."
Even if the fans hadn't been so animated and involved, it would have been tough to forget about the trauma this city experienced last week.
There was a blue-and-yellow "Boston Strong" sign on dasher boards at center ice, and players from both teams sported "Boston Strong" T-shirts under their hockey gear.
The Penguins wore a "Boston 617" -- the city's area code -- patch on their game sweaters. The Bruins, rather than wearing helmets during the warm-ups, put on baseball caps from the Massachusetts state police and the police departments of Boston and Watertown.
The game Wednesday had been the first professional sporting event in Boston since the marathon bombings. The TD Garden crowd that night was involved and intense, with the bombing case fresh and unresolved, but the atmosphere Saturday was a bit more festive following the capture of the second suspect.
"It was a little more of a celebration," Bruins winger Brad Marchand said. "More of an opportunity for us to thank [law-enforcement officers] and give our respects for the amazing job they did."
Although they won the game, the Penguins were really just members of the supporting cast in an event the city hopes will help with its healing process.
"It's a great opportunity to play a game today with the city of Boston," Mr. Bylsma said. "Not just against the Bruins, but with the city and with the Bruins."mobilehome - nation - penguins
Dave Molinari: email@example.com or Twitter @MolinariPG.