To close out this 3-game homestand, the Bruins needed to bring their best during this game - and, though there were flashes of idiocy, much of this game showed patience and a commitment to the game plan.
David Pastrnak gets a sneak rush about 90 seconds into the period, but the shot deflected wide. The B’s D got stuck behind Khudobin’s net a couple times, and the forwards were too low in their own end to challenge Devils defensemen, allowing them to cycle for a shift. Peter Cehlarik rang a post going the other way, still looking for his first career goal.
Too many turnovers, from both teams, made this a tough period to watch. The B’s were playing down to the Devils skaters and encountering the wall that is Cory Schneider. Whistles included pucks into the benches out of play, offsides, icings... no rhythm would be established, even by the halfway point of the period.
Krejci almost had a rebound goal with 6:30 left; the refs had to stop McQuaid from mixing it up with Miles Wood (NJ LW) after an icing call, and the frustrations mounted from there. Stafford nearly fed Spooner at the top of the blue paint for a goal, but the puck just bounces over Ryan’s blade. From there, the B’s started to establish zone time - and neutral zone defense - for the last 6 minutes or so. More solid saves from Schneider prevented the results the B’s were looking for. Spooner and Stafford establish a strong forecheck, and Stafford gets a chance from the right circle, but no such luck, and the period would end scoreless.
This period took a few minutes to get up to speed. The B’s had some attacking time, and their neutral zone recovery was improving, keeping the Devils on their heels. However, the Devils did a good job of keeping the puck to the outside and no quality shots came off the B’s rushes.
Kevin Rooney of New Jersey took a hooking penalty just over 3 minutes into the period, but the Bruins had trouble getting the puck into the attacking zone. Once they could, a pass back to the point skipped out past the point-man, and that was a wrap on the first power play.
Taylor Hall took another quick penalty for the Devils, giving the Bruins a near-immediate repeat opportunity. The cycle begins, and the Bruins make it count, with a great bumper play to Bergeron creating a rebound and allowing Torey Krug to clean it up with 13 minutes to go in the second. 1-0, Bruins.
Minutes later, the B’s struggled to get the puck out of their own zone, with the Devils setting up behind Dobby’s net. The Devils were able to get a puck back to the point and the return shot got through Khudobin, but not before Taylor Hall tripped Torey Krug. On the ensuing power play, the B’s were able to cycle closer and closer to the slot, when Bergeron got a strong pass to Drew Stafford in front, who whips a shot and jabs home the rebound under Schneider.
Drew Stafford’s goal gets called back for goalie interference pic.twitter.com/eJV123KJhH— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) March 5, 2017
WAIT, WAIT. NJ challenges on goalie interference, and it stands; back to 1-0.
Hall would take another tripping penalty, and just like that, it looks like the Devils are going to give this game away. Just after their PK ends, a clearing attempt rims around to Krug at the left point, who lets it through - and Devante Smith-Pelly gets a jump past Krug on a breakaway and tucks the puck between Khudobin’s legs to tie the game. 1-1.
With 3 minutes to play, the period quieted down some. Neither team was willing to go to the locker room down a goal, so the B’s made patient work of their zone entries and the Devils set up camp behind Khudobin again. The Bruins then begin to carry the puck a bit deeper the next time, and Carlo cleans up a loose puck. On his centering attempt to Marchand, Devils forward Nick Lappin put his stick down to block the pass and tipped the puck past Schneider to put the B’s ahead. 2-1, Bruins.
In the final 90 seconds, the Bruins were determined to put more distractions in front of Schneider, and it nearly worked - Krejci almost tucked one around his outstretched leg, and on the next stoppage, a scrum ensued that popped Chara’s helmet off. No prisoners. The Devils try their own bit of gamesmanship with a shove-fest to the left of Khudobin, but the period fades.
The Bruins came out with strong energy to start the third, pinning the puck on the offensive sidewall, keeping the Devils from carrying the puck past the tops of the circles, and producing a flurry of activity in front of Schneider which caused NJ defenseman Damon Severson to take a hooking penalty just two minutes in.
The first PP unit was so-so, but the new-look second power play unit - with Stafford, Vatrano, Backes, Chiller and Krejci - showed success on the umbrella cycle and nearly created a tip-in goal by Drew Stafford.
With 14 minutes to play, Brandon Carlo flubbed a point shot, which hit off Taylor Hall’s shin pads. He chased down the bounce behind Carlo and rushed 2-on-1 with Kyle Palmeiri, feeding it to him with a silver spoon through the slot for the chip-in. 2-2 game.
Two random sirens sound - as in, the end-of-period siren, but not at the end of the period - which stops play, the second of which caused a TV timeout to figure out just what the heck is going on. Russia, North Korea, the Canadians - we may never know who was at fault. Back from the break, the B’s won a defensive zone faceoff, put the puck deep, cycled, and stole it back - and with Vatrano winning a board battle behind Schneider, some slick passing through the new-look third line saw Vatrano chip it in front to Stafford, who showed shot for a split-second and fed it to his right, where Spooner was all alone at the left post. He made no mistake, and Stafford gets his first point as a Bruin. 3-2, with 11:42 to go in the game.
In the final ten minutes, the Devils picked up their hitting game; unfortunately for them, it rarely resulted in a turnover in their favor. Even youngblood Cehlarik got hit and lost the puck, only to turn the jets back on and recover it in the neutral zone. This kid’s goin’ places.
With just under six minutes to go, Devils defenseman John Moore took an interference call against Stafford, and the entire power play saw the Bruins holding zone time, winning attacking faceoffs, and generally making the Devils miserable. The play cycled to both ends and the Bruins were able to retrieve, possess and pass their way to a win. 3-2, Bruins, final score.
- There was a lot to like about this game, from Khudobin overcoming a lack of attention and a soft goal to strengthen in the third period; hard control of the neutral zone; and a serious show of depth with the revitalized third line.
- Speaking of the third line, Drew Stafford fit in well there, adding some balance to what occasionally looked like a rookie line with Spooner’s admittedly soft two-way play and Vatrano’s literal lack of experience. Stafford was in the right place often during this game, with several offensive opportunities to show for it.
- It’s nice to get a win without Tuukka in net. We already mentioned Dobby’s game rounding out in the third period, but anytime the Finnish Flash of the Pads can get some rest should make us confident about the next game.
- Next up: a quick road trip to Ottawa on Monday, and a reunion with The Biter, Alex Burrows. Then the B’s are back home on Wednesday vs. Detroit.