BOSTON -- There couldn't have been many dry eyes in the building.
In typical Boston fashion, the Bruins held an emotional pregame ceremony to honor the victims of Monday's marathon bombings. Once the Bruins took to the ice, the 17,565 fans in attendance gave the city's hockey team a standing ovation.
"It was pretty emotional. In a way, it makes you feel proud of the city and of our fans and the solidarity that was shown throughout this whole thing," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I'm proud of this city for how it responded tonight."
TD Garden became silent as a "Boston Strong"-themed video played on the video board, accompanied by the song "Home" by Phillip Phillips, honoring the first responders with a montage of pictures.
The video concluded with a written message: "We are Boston. We are Strong. Boston strong."
Then, surrounded by the Boston Fire Color Guard, local icon Rene Rancourt began to sing the national anthem. Only a few words in, he motioned to the fans to start singing. The noise was incredible.
"Going out there was emotional," said Boston firefighter David Blaides, the commander of the guard. "It was very emotional. Experiencing what we did the last couple of days, to be able to go out there and get the energy from the crowd, I can't even compare it to going into a fire building because it didn't involve us directly. It definitely involved the community of Boston, and a lot of the family that's injured. Our hearts definitely go out to them.
"Being out here today, the energy from the crowd, it's as though your tears turn into joy. It was fulfilling being out there today."
Throughout the game, the Bruins continued to honor the victims.
During the second intermission, a special 8-Spoked Salute honored the first responders.
Bruins forward Brad Marchand also raffled off his own TD Garden suite for the team's first home playoff game, with all proceeds to benefit the Richard family of Dorchester, whose 8-year-old son, Martin, died in Monday's bombings.
"Our whole team saw the photos of Martin at our game from last Thursday and learned that he and his family are big fans of ours," Marchand said. "This is just one small gesture, which I hope can help the Richard family during this incredibly sad time for them. What they are going through is unimaginable and we will try to assist them in any way we can."
Security was tightened in and around North Station, a major train and subway stop next to TD Garden, as well as the Garden itself prior to the game. In the morning, vehicles entering the North Station garage were examined, using mirrors to look underneath them. In the afternoon, building personnel were removing the recycle and trash bins from Causeway Street and around TD Garden. Bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in to inspect the building.
Once the puck dropped, the Bruins quickly took a 1-0 lead on Daniel Paille's goal, and the crowd erupted.
"It was definitely giving every guy goose bumps on the ice, and I'm sure throughout the building," Marchand said of the fans, who chanted "We are Boston" and "USA, USA, USA" throughout the contest.
Boston went on to lose in a shootout to the Sabres, 3-2. But the result hardly seemed to matter. Afterward, both teams joined at center ice and saluted the crowd.
"Unfortunate events like this puts things into perspective," forward Shawn Thornton said. "We play a game for a living. There are a lot more important things in life than playing hockey, and paying your respects to the people definitely shows that."
Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics returned to the court on Wednesday night in Toronto for the first time since the bombings.
The Celtics gathered with the Toronto Raptors at midcourt to observe a moment of silence in honor of the victims prior to the teams' regular-season finale.
Neil Diamond's classic hit "Sweet Caroline," long associated with Boston's beloved Red Sox, played as the Celtics' starters were introduced, and a message on the stadium scoreboards read, "Tonight we are all Boston fans." In the stands opposite the Toronto bench, three female fans held up a sign that read, "Send Boston Love."
"I thought it was sensational," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought it was really neat. I wish the fans had known the lyrics to 'Sweet Caroline' a little bit better. Other than that, it was terrific."
The Celtics wore a black stripe on their jerseys.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.