The Boston Bruins came into tonight’s game having earned a point in 15 straight games. They have not lost in regulation since January 19 and are 18-3-5 since Mackenzie Blackwood earned his first NHL victory against them back on December 27.
None of that changed tonight as the Bruins edged the Devils 1-0, earning two more points and extending their streak to 16 straight without a regulation loss.
The Devils did not play bad, they just had a hard time solving B’s goaltender Tuukka Rask when they got through to him.
We begin with one of those “life just isn’t fair” moments. Kurtis Gabriel was unavailable tonight as he was suspended for one game without pay for his boarding hit on Nolan Patrick last night against Philly. That suspension, almost all would agree, was warranted and deserved. What would have also been deserved was Patrick being suspended for his interference on Gabriel later on in the game. That went unpunished and, again, the NHL continues to frustrate in how it handles its player safety. What might have factored into things was that Gabriel was not concussed, despite going through concussion protocol.
So without Gabriel and Nathan Bastian – who was injured last night when he collided with Nick Lappin and has an upper body injury – Joey Anderson was recalled from Binghamton. He played right wing on the fourth line with Kevin Rooney and Egor Yakovlev (the D-man who was moved up front again for practical purposes since the Devils are short forwards). Steven Santini also slotted back in on defense. He played on the third pairing with Will Butcher.
In goal, we mentioned Mackenzie Blackwood’s earlier success in Boston. He played excellent once again in this game, only surrendering the one goal and making 29 saves on 30 shots for a .967 save percentage tonight. But as good as Blackwood played (and he was good), he was somewhat outplayed by Tuukka Rask who got the shut out by stopping all 20 Devils shots thrown his way. Rask was named the game’s first star while Blackwood was the third. Brad Marchand was the second.
The difference was special teams. The Bruins’ lone goal came on their lone power play as they had two shots on that and scored on one. They also had a shorthanded shot. The Devils were 0-for-2 on the power play with a single shot, so not as effective.
The only goal of the game came at the 2:37 mark of the first when Brad Marchand scored from Patrice Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk. Kenny Agostino, cutting by the Bruins’ defense, went through Rask’s crease and bumped him drawing a goalie interference call at 2:23. On the ensuing power play, DeBrusk was able to knock down a puck on the backhand and settle it for Bergeron who also used the backhand to pass to Marchand who deposited it in the Devils net, making it 1-0 Boston and giving us our final.
Marchand was at the center of things again when, at 7:16, Damon Severson hauled him down on a breakaway attempt. The officials called a penalty shot and Marchand had the chance to double up the Bruins’ lead. He skated in and tried to fire low stick side but Blackwood stopped him, getting the right pad on the puck to deny him.
It should be noted that MSG put up a graphic that Marchand was playing in his 666th NHL game with 666 career penalty minutes… against the Devils! In another, less ominous milestone, Drew Stafford was playing his 100th game as a member of the Devils. Marchand would once again draw the ire of Devils fans when he interfered with Sami Vatanen when the Devils had a sixth attacker on the ice looking to tie things. He cross checked Vatanen from behind in the Devils’ zone and no penalty was called.
Nico Hischier left the game down the tunnel, apparently injured, late in the second period but returned right away. He did leave again later in the game according to MSG’s Erika Wachter. There was no word on his injury during the postgame show.
One of the Devils’ best chances to tie things up came midway through the third period as Jesper Bratt beat Zdeno Chara in a footrace to a loose puck and got a partial breakaway in the Boston zone, but was stopped by Rask. New Jersey would not get closer for the rest of the game, despite pulling Blackwood with 1:30 remaining for the sixth attacker.
The Devils ended up being out shot by Boston 30-20 yet won more faceoffs (at a 58-percent clip) than the Bruins. The Devils also out hit the B’s 30-22, blocked more shots at 14-12 and had less giveaways at five to the Bruins’ 14.
Stats-wise, time on ice was led by Will Butcher with 21:53 (including 2:03 on the power play) while Travis Zajac led the forwards with 19:26 (1:55 on the power play and 14 seconds on the PK). Shots were led by Blake Coleman, Sami Vatanen and Egor Yakovlev who each had three. Hits were led by Michael McLeod with five. Blocked shots by Connor Carrick and Vatanen with three each and takeaways by Bratt and Yakovlev who both had two.
Next up, the Devils return home for one game before a massive road trip. They get the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday and we will have that for you right here. In the meantime, leave a comment if you would like and have a great weekend.