Jarome Iginla might have made a stronger first impression in his debut in front of a sellout Garden crowd last night if he had oh scored a goal or two.

But the impression he made was quite OK for Bruins fans whose hearts Iginla warmed with a boisterous second-period fight during the B’s plenty-of-room-for-improvement 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Iginla was asked afterward if his first 60 minutes in Black ’n’ Gold — and his first fight — made him officially feel like a Bruin.
“Yeah it did” said Iginla. “It felt good to play here at home and be a Bruin. The guys play hard. They blocked shots. Thorty (Shawn Thornton) starting it off with a (fight). There were a lot of good hits. It felt good to be part of the intense season-opener again and get things started.”

On his first shift Iginla laid a good hit on defenseman Eric Brewer — and made it clear he took the ice wanting to fit in with his new team’s physical approach.

“I’m just trying to play hard and get into it” he said. “In the preseason the intensity isn’t the same. When the puck drops for the first game everybody is more revved up and excited. Hits are part of it. Playing with Looch (Milan Lucic) you do want to get in on the forecheck and hit and get in on that put pressure on the (defensemen). I was trying to do that early.”

At 9:06 of Period 2 Iginla did more than dish out bodychecks. He was skating through neutral ice in pursuit of a Lucic pass. (“It was kind of a suicide pass by me” said Lucic. “I apologized to him after that.”)

At about the instant Iginla touched the puck he took a hard open-ice hit from Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas. Iginla jumped up ready to go.

“It wasn’t planned” said Iginla. “It wasn’t planned getting run over there either.”

While acknowledged as one of the NHL’s preeminent power forwards over the past two decades the 6-foot-1 205-pound Iginla hasn’t really been a busy fighter. In most of his 16 seasons he’d have maybe 3-4 bouts. Last year he had three the last of them vs. Nathan Horton April 20 — the tussle in which his predecessor on the Lucic-David Krejci line dislocated his shoulder.

Last night with the B’s not playing all that great he just figured a response to the Gudas hit made sense.

“I didn’t think it was a dirty hit at all” said Iginla. “It just felt like it was a good time. You want to respond. With Bruins hockey for a long time guys stick up for each other. But you also want to stick up for yourself. Just part of the energy part of the emotions part of the battle.”