Newark, NJ – The Boston Bruins accomplished two goals on Saturday afternoon by beating the New Jersey Devils 5-2 at the Prudential Center. First, they held onto a third-period lead. Second, they picked up a road win. The Bruins squandered a 3-2 lead on Thursday at home against the Edmonton Oilers, leaving them sour. Saturday, they built on a 3-2 lead in the third. Also, Boston had only won one game on the road in five previous tries. The last one came almost a month ago in Buffalo.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy wanted to see his team get back to their identity of being a team that puts away an opponent when they are ahead in a game.
“We don’t want to become that team that beats themselves, or in the big moment, we’re not up to the task to play the right way and handle it,” said Cassidy pregame.
It looked iffy at times on Saturday, but the team responded in kind.
Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman (27 saves) had his work cut out for him early. The rookie had to make a few quality saves on high-end scoring chances by the Devils. Namely, Swayman turned back a Pavel Zacha breakaway chance around the six-minute mark.
The Bruins had the game’s first power-play at 6:37 when Jesper Boqvist high-sticked Connor Clifton. The Bruins man advantage lasted only 10 seconds as Swayman earned a Delay of Game penalty for playing the puck outside the trapezoid behind the Bruins goal. Karson Kuhlman served the penalty.
Boston defenseman Clifton received an Interference call at 10:08. The penalty kill was solid again on Saturday. Curtis Lazar had a breakaway bid denied by Jonathan Bernier (31 saves). Lazar tried to go low on Bernier’s glove side, but the veteran goalie got enough of the shot to nudge it away from goal.
Swayman stopped Zacha again on a Devils three-on-two chance with five minutes left in the first. Zacha caught a pass from Alexander Holtz in the slot and fired off a snapshot that Swayman’s leg saved.
Erik Haula notched his first goal as a member of the Bruins at 17:37 when he banged in a rebound of an Anton Blidh shot on a Boston three-on-two opportunity. Kuhlman picked Boqvist’s pocket at the red-line and carried it into the Devils zone. The 5′-11″ winger shielded the puck from defenseman Damon Severson and left the puck for Blidh to fire off his shot. Haula had charged the net and swiped the rebound under Bernier’s pad for the 1-0 lead.
“It felt good for sure,” said Haula. “Definitely could have had a few already. I’ve had the chances. It’s a good feeling when the first one goes in.”
“You can forget about that one and start thinking about the second one,” added Haula.
Devils forward Dawson Mercer tripped Clifton leading to a Bruins power-play at 2:58 of the second period. Marchand capitalized on the man advantage when his snapshot from inside the blue line beat Bernier to make it 2-0 Bruins at 4:10. Charlie McAvoy and Patrice Bergeron assisted on Marchand’s seventh of the year.
Once again, it only took an opponent less than a minute to score after a Bruins goal. After being victimized by it twice on Thursday against the Oilers, Mercer cut the deficit to one when he banged in an Andreas Johnsson pass past Swayman, who went into a full split to make the save attempt at 4:38. The Bruins were victimized a bit by defenseman Matt Grzelcyk getting tangled up with a Devils player in the neutral zone. Jesper Bratt corralled the loose puck and led the Devils on a three-on-two against Clifton and Lazar. Mercer trailed the play, and Johnsson’s back pass set him up beautifully to slap the one-timer past Swayman. The goal was Mercer’s fifth of his rookie campaign.
The Bruins responded in kind when Marchand’s second of the period came at 6:52. Swayman stopped Tomas Tatar, McAvoy scooped up the rebound and sent Marchand off for the Devils’ zone. Marchand carried into the Devils zone and dished cross-ice to a trailing Pastrnak who unloaded a slapper on Bernier. Marchand crashed the net to bury the rebound on Bernier’s save to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead. The goal was Marchand’s eighth of the year.
Bratt’s forechecking in the Bruins zone led to him making it a one-goal game just before the period expired. Bratt’s hustle affected the clearing attempt by Charlie Coyle around the boards. The puck bounced off the side of the net and fell to Mercer, who spun a pass to a wide-open Bratt at the right side of Boston’s goal.
In the third, the Bruins held firm and added an insurance goal at 10:49 when Bergeron banged in a loose puck in the Devils’ crease. Pastrnak drove to the net, where Bernier made the pad save in close, but Bergeron was in a position to knock the puck over the goal to make it 4-2. Pastrnak and McAvoy assisted on the captain’s sixth goal.
The Devils had a few grade-A chances, but Swayman and the defense held firm. The Devils had 11 shots on goal in the third. Again Zacha (6 SOG) had a back-hander turned away by Swayman in the Bruins crease.
The Devils also had an extended possession in the Bruins zone, where Swayman had to make a few stops while the team could not clear the puck.
“It was a big two points for us,” said Swayman. “A bounce-back game for us, from Thursday night. I’m really happy with the result.”
Jake DeBrusk, who was dropped to the fourth line in favor of Blidh early in the game, added an empty-net goal at 19:06 after blocking a Bratt pass in the Bruins zone. The unassisted goal was DeBreusk’s third of the year.
“It was little more typical of how we should play,” said Cassidy after the game. “You’re going to bend a little bit; teams are going to have a push. I think they (New Jersey) did around four or five minutes in there.”
“Early on (in the third), we put some pressure on and extended the lead eventually,” added Cassidy. “Good d-zone results in getting a puck back, now all of a sudden you have numbers because they’re (NJD) pressing. That’s the script that we’ve typically done. Play good defense, manage the puck, wait for them to press and lose some numbers the other way and get an odd-man rush and take advantage of it. We did.”
Boston takes on the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden while the Devils make the trip to New York City to face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Both games are Sunday at 7:00 pm.
Jeremy Swayman photo appears courtesy of http://www.insidehockey.com