This was not the same Boston Bruins team that the Devils had success against earlier this season. This team was streamlined, stingy on defense and capable of scoring from anywhere at any time.
They were also playing for a playoff spot. One point earned against the Devils tonight, or a Capitals win over the Rangers in any form would guarantee that the Bruins became the fourth East Division team to punch their ticket.
As it is, they decided to do it themselves. They soundly defeated the Devils 3-0 tonight at Prudential Center in the Devils’ penultimate home game of the season.
Some roster news as PK Subban and Jonas Siegenthaler are off COVID protocol and Subban is, in fact, working out at the Devils’ training facilities. As COVID recovery is different for everyone, we do not know yet if either man will play in a game the rest of the season.
Mikhail Maltsev also joined Andreas Johnsson as injured when he blocked a shot on Saturday in Philly. He is out with a lower body injury and there was a new face filling in for him.
AJ Greer, acquired in the Kyle Palmieri/Travis Zajac trade to the New York Islanders, made his Devils debut tonight playing primarily left wing on the third line with Jesper Boqvist and Nick Merkley. Greer actually has NHL experience – 37 games with the Colorado Avalanche, the team that drafted him – but had not played since February 23, 2019 in the NHL. He wore number 42.
In goal, Scott Wedgewood got his first start in 18 days, since he was pulled in the game at Pittsburgh last month. He stopped 39-of-42 Bruins’ shots for a .929 save percentage. He was just under siege all night as he stopped 38-of-41 at even strength. He stopped the lone Boston power play shot as the B’s went 0-for-1 on the man advantage.
His backup tonight, Mackenzie Blackwood, deserves a bit of congratulations for passing Chris Terreri on the Devils’ all-time goalie list Saturday in Philadelphia. He still has a really long way to go to catch up to a certain other “MB” but it is certainly a nice start.
For the Bruins, Tuukka Rask got the nod and got the shutout. He stopped all 20 Devils shots with New Jersey not getting a power play shot off and going 0-for-1 on the power play.
Following a scoreless first period where the Boston outshot the Devils 17-4, it was off to the second and the game-winning goal.
It came off of the stick of Nick Ritchie when Jakub Zboril fed Ritchie at the far side of the Devils’ goal line. Ritchie, just above the goal line, shot from the hard angle an scored. Sean Kuraly had the secondary assist on the goal that gave Boston the 1-0 lead. The goal came at 9:08 into the second frame.
That goal ended the Devils’ streak of scoring first, achieved during the Flyers four-game series.
At the 17:54 mark, Patrice Bergeron made it 2-0 when Wedgewood made a big save on David Pastrnak and then the puck rattled around behind the Devils’ net. Brad Marchand won a puck battle there and gained control. He centered to Bergeron in front of the net all alone and Bergeron deposited it to double up the Bruins’ lead.
Early in the third, at the 6:43 mark, Greer laid a dangerous hit on Zboril that would result in a boarding call. New Jersey-native Connor Clifton came to Zboril’s aid and fought Greer. The two had a spirited bout and got their respective benches going.
But the Bruins would add one more for the road when, at 17:17, Matt Grzelcyk scored. Bergeron dished it to Marchand at the point. He shot and the puck kind of bounced around, bouncing off of Ryan Murray’s leg and off of Grzelcyk and in. Grzelcyk wa the last Bruin to touch it and so got credit in making it 3-0, our final.
The Bruins got their first regulation win over the Devils this season, as their other two wins came off of shootouts.
Team stats-wise, the Bruins more than doubled the Devils shot total with 42 shots to the Devils’ 20. The Devils actually won more faceoffs with a 51-percent winning clip. Michael McLeod led the centers with a 61-percent winning percentage. The Bruins had more hits at 18 to the Devils’ seven, more blocked shots at 12 to the Devils’ nine and less turnovers than the Devils at 12 to five for Boston.
Damon Severson led all Devils in ice time with 22:02. Jack Hughes led the forwards with 19:47 logged.
Shots were led by Pavel Zacha and Will Butcher with three each. Hits were led by McLeod and Nate Bastian with three each. Severson led in blocks with two and Nico Hischier led in takeaways with three.
Next up, the Devils do it again. Tomorrow night against the Bruins in the final home game of the season. Puck drop for that game is at 7 PM and I might be a little late on a recap due to personal reasons.
Until then, stay safe everyone!