Boston Bruins give jerseys to officers in bomb suspect manhunt

First responders, members of law enforcement and Boston Marathon officials hold Boston Bruins jerseys as they gather with members of the team, back, on the ice following an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers at the TD Garden in Boston, April 21, 2013. AP Photo/Steven Senne

BOSTON The Boston Bruins saluted rather than celebrated.

Ending a four-game winless streak and reaching a tie for first place in the Northeast Division with a 3-0 victory against the Florida Panthers on Sunday was secondary to the Bruins, considering all that's happened in Boston recently.

Each member of the team remained on the ice for a postgame ceremony to hand over their jerseys to a group of people who jumped in to assist the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing or members of law enforcement who participated in the manhunt that led to the capture of one of the suspects Friday night.

Thousands of fans remained for the ceremony, cheering as 26 jerseys were handed out to the heroes of a tragic week that could have been so much worse.

"There was still some electricity in the air when you look at the end of the game," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "Too much has happened in this past week to suddenly turn the corner and say we've forgotten. We haven't and we never will."

The "Shirt Off Our Backs" ceremony is actually an annual promotion for fans. But the Bruins said season-ticket holders asked instead for first responders to be the recipients.

"It's pretty overwhelming to see all the fans and all the players taking the time to say thanks," said Massachusetts State Police Trooper Mark Spencer, who was holding on to the sweaty jersey Jaromir Jagr had just handed him. "We couldn't even walk through upstairs during the venue without people stopping us and thanking us."

Spencer piloted the helicopter equipped with a thermal imaging device that confirmed the 19-year-old bombing suspect was hiding in a parked boat in neighboring Watertown.

Trooper Eric Fairchild, who was handling communications on the helicopter crew, received Rich Peverley's jersey. Both, dressed in their black flight suits and hats, modestly credited others with having more important roles in the rescue and apprehension.

"We were a small cog in a big wheel with a lot of people working together and it came to a successful resolution," Fairchild said. "The citizens of Massachusetts are amazing and we feel very honored today. Boston fans, Massachusetts residents and United States citizens at this time have been amazing."

Jagr, whose goal 3:03 into the game gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead, said the players were grateful for the chance to meet and thank the honorees personally.

"It's part of our job to somehow help people — somehow make them happy," Jagr said. "It's a small help, but at least it's a help we can do. Hopefully they appreciate it and they are happy."

Last Wednesday, security was tight and emotions were high when the Bruins resumed play for the first time since the bombing. Before the game, there was a moment of silence, a slideshow of marathon scenes on the video scoreboard above center ice and a stirring rendition of the national anthem, which was started by long-time Bruins vocalist Rene Rancourt. He sang a few lines then gestured for the fans to join in - which they did.

After the game, players gathered at center ice and raised their sticks in a salute to the fans who had chanted "U.S.A." and "We are Boston."

"You feel like a Bostonian it makes you feel good," Vinny Scinicariello told CBS Boston. His daughter made a sign reading, "We are brave we are strong, we are Boston."

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