NEWARK, N.J. – All the Boston Bruins needed to get back into first place was eight good minutes to start the game, and eight flawless penalty kills.
Gregory Campbell scored twice in a three-goal first period, the Bruins built a four-goal lead and then held on for a 5-4 victory over the reeling New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.
The win moved the Bruins (56 points) a point ahead of the Montreal Canadiens in the Northeast Division with nine games to play in the lockout-shortened season. It also put them back in second place in the Eastern Conference, four points behind Pittsburgh, which has played one extra game.
“It’s certainly nice to be there, in first place,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after his team won for the fifth time in six games. “That was a little bit of motivation tonight. That’s not to say we played a great game, but we accomplished a goal.”
The Devils didn’t accomplish anything in losing their eighth straight (0-4-4). They are four points out of a playoff spot with eight games to go. It’s certainly not what many expected from a team that played for the Stanley Cup last season.
“You know the spot you are in,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “You have two choices. You roll over and die or you get up tomorrow and find a way to turn one win into six or seven or whatever it is going to take.”
To return to the post-season, the Devils need to play a lot better. But so do the Bruins if they are going to make some noise in the playoffs.
This wasn’t their best effort. They stopped playing for long stretches after taking a 4-0 lead early in the second period on Zdeno Chara’s goal.
“The way the game started was very weird, but we capitalized on our opportunities,” said Tyler Seguin, whose third-period goal was the winner. “After going up 3-0, we definitely took the foot off the gas a little bit and you saw what happened. They came back and almost stole one.”
The Bruins scored three times against Martin Brodeur in the opening 8:12. Daniel Paille and Campbell capped the initial outburst with short-handed goals in a 3:21 span.
Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac, Andy Greene and Matt D’Agostini scored against Anton Khudobin (24 saves) for New Jersey, whose losing streak is its longest since 1985-86.
D’Agostini’s goal got New Jersey within one with 37 seconds to play, but Boston didn’t allow another shot.
The first period was the difference, a session that included the sellout crowd 17,625 booing the home team a number of times and giving Brodeur sarcastic cheers after routine saves.
Not only did the Bruins score three times early, they killed off four penalties, including an early 1:27 two-man advantage. They even had lumbering defenceman Johnny Boychuk miss a penalty shot, or it would have been three short-handed goals.
“Them taking penalties cost us the game,” said Brodeur, who finished with 13 saves. “We didn’t get many chances and they got a penalty shot and scored two goals. That was the big difference in the game.”
Campbell put Boston ahead 70 seconds after the opening faceoff, but it was Jaromir Jagr, who did most of the work. The recently acquired 41-year-old controlled the puck between the circles despite being hounded. He eventually got a quick shot on Brodeur and Campbell pounced on the rebound, sliding it under the 40-year-old goaltender, who was making his 10th straight start.
“We’re clicking a little bit more,” Campbell said. “Either it’s a slow start or a slow finish. Tonight it was a slow second period. We sat on our lead and got comfortable. Give them credit, they worked hard to get back into the game. The onus is on to stay with the game plan, despite the score.”
The Bruins then killed off the two-man disadvantage and Boychuk got his penalty shot just seconds after coming out of the box and being hooked by Marek Zidlicky. Brodeur followed the Boston defenceman’s slow-motion moves and stacked his pads to stop the shot.
It only slowed down the Bruins’ momentarily.
A bad pass by forward Steve Sullivan at the point on another power play set up a 2-on-1 break for the Bruins a little less than three minutes later. Brodeur made the initial stop on Paille, but he swatted the rebound out of the air for his eighth goal.
Campbell got his fourth with a deflection of a shot from the point by Andrew Ference.
“Getting goals, getting points, it’s a good feeling,” Campbell said. “I try to work hard every game. I’ve had a few chances throughout the year. I was happy tonight they went in.
Chara made it 4-0 with a power-play goal early in the second period, but the Devils didn’t give up.
Elias got them on the board with a deflection of a shot by Sullivan, and the momentum seemed to change after Devils’ defenceman Anton Volchenkov elbowed Brad Marchand in the head, drawing a five-minute major and a game misconduct. It left the Devils with four defenceman because Bryce Salvador did not return after being hit in the hand on a shot by Chara earlier in the period .
Instead of putting the game away, the Bruins got lax and Zajac scored shorthanded late in the period to cut the deficit to 4-2.
Greene scored on a slap shot 5:58 into the third period to cut the lead to a goal. But Seguin scored in close off a nice pass by Paille less than two minutes later to give Boston breathing room.
“We battled back,” Brodeur said. “… but nobody is happy about what happened today.”
NOTES: Boston is 12-1-1 when leading after the first period and 17-2-1 when scoring first. … Marchand was wobbly after the Volchenkov hit and he did not return. … The last time the Devils gave up two short-handed goals in a game was against Atlanta in 2006. … The Devils have not won since Ilya Kovalchuk hurt his right shoulder against the Panthers here on March 23. He hopes to return to the lineup soon. … Bruins C Patrice Bergeron (concussion) has started skating and hopes to return soon. … New Jersey recalled rookie goaltender Keith Kinkaid from Albany (AHL) earlier in the day because backup Johan Hedberg was sore.