The outcome: When Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas allows three unanswered goals, and New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur registers an assist, all in the first period, it’s a safe bet it’ll be a long night for the Bruins.
That’s how it played out as the Devils defeated the Bruins 3-2 Monday night at the Prudential Center in New Jersey. Boston is 2-3-1 on its current seven-game road trip. The Bruins came out strong in the first few minutes and they finished in similar fashion. However, everything in between went for naught and the Devils capitalized.
Boston is trying to hold onto a postseason berth, while the Devils are climbing the Eastern Conference standings. It sounds like a cliché, but the Bruins will need a full 60-minute effort every game down the stretch to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs.
First-period analysis: When the Devils score three unanswered goals in the first period, it doesn’t bode well for their opponent, especially with Brodeur between the pipes for New Jersey.
That’s exactly what the Devils were able to do in the first 20 minutes Monday night. After the first five minutes of the game, New Jersey gained momentum and didn’t relent.
Whatever quality scoring chances the Bruins were able produce early in the period, Brodeur turned aside. Even when New Jersey turned the puck over in its own zone, Brodeur stepped up.
Thomas was equally impressive midway through the period during a Devils flurry and came up with a pair of big saves. However, on the ensuing puck drop, New Jersey won the faceoff to the right of Thomas that led to the Devils' first goal. The Devils’ Rob Niedermayer beat a screened Thomas with a snap shot from the slot at 9:58.
Brodeur was doing it all. The veteran netminder collected his first assist of the season when he connected with teammate David Clarkson on a tape-to-tape pass that sent the winger on a breakaway, ending with Clarkson beating Thomas with a backhand at 17:23 of the period to give New Jersey a 2-0 advantage.
The Devils weren’t done.
New Jersey’s Zach Parise notched his 32nd goal of the season at 18:08 for a 3-0 lead as the Devils won the battles in front of the net.
Second-period analysis: Since the Devils had a three-goal lead to start the second period, Bruins coach Claude Julien decided to change goaltenders and replaced Thomas with Tuukka Rask.
The Bruins scored 43 seconds into the period with a solid forecheck and by throwing the puck at the net. Boston defenseman Mark Stuart pinched in from the blue line, collected a loose puck on the goal line and rifled a shot toward the net that found its way past Brodeur when the Bruins’ Blake Wheeler tipped it home to give the Bruins their first tally of the game.
In an attempt to regain some sort of momentum, the Bruins’ Shawn Thornton dropped his gloves with the Devils’ Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond at 2:47 of the period. But Boston couldn’t get anything going even though Rask did his job and stopped all 10 shots he faced in the period.
Third-period analysis: The Bruins played with controlled desperation in the final period with a strong forecheck. Brodeur turned away shots time and again. Rask did a good job stopping the puck and controlling the rebounds at the other end.
Still trailing by two goals in the waning minutes, Boston pulled Rask for the extra attacker and it worked. Patrice Bergeron redirected a Dennis Seidenberg slap shot from the point to cut their deficit to one with 1:03 remaining in regulation. Unfortunately for Boston that’s how it ended.
Despite the loss, the Bruins finished strong and almost tied the game before the final buzzer sounded. Boston will need to carry that late surge into Tuesday’s game at Carolina.
Between the pipes: It wasn’t the best of nights for Thomas. Prior to allowing three goals in the first period, Thomas had not played in the Bruins’ two previous games. He was 2-1-1 in his last four starts before Monday. After Thomas was given the hook, Rask held New Jersey scoreless the rest of the way. Sure, the Devils are a defensive-minded team that tries to control the neutral zone once it has the lead, especially late in the game, but Rask played well.
Brodeur was Brodeur. He finished with 34 saves and added one assist. He posted his league-leading 38th victory.
Special teams: Turned out to be a nonfactor for both teams. The Bruins went 0-for-2 on the power play, while the Devils went 0-for-1.
Intangibles: The Bruins will need to show some spark down the stretch, so it was good to see Stuart and Thornton drop the gloves on Monday. Stuart had no choice in his bout with the Devils’ Rod Pelley at 13:50 of the second period. Stuart had laid a solid hit on New Jersey captain Jamie Langenbrunner, so Pelley retaliated.
Up next: The Bruins will finish their seven-game road trip Tuesday in Carolina. Even though Thomas was removed from Monday’s game after allowing three third-period goals, don’t be surprised if he’s back in there against the Hurricanes.