BOSTON – Bruins coach Claude Julien tried different things to get David Krejci going, even moving the centre to right wing for a handful of games.
Thursday night, Krejci was back at centre, between Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic—and delivered the second hat trick of his career, the third goal beating Martin Brodeur at 2:59 of overtime to give the Bruins a 4-3 victory over the Devils, completing Boston’s first series sweep of New Jersey since 1985-86.
“He’s one of our top players and when he’s producing the way he did tonight there’s no doubt our team is much better,” Julien said after Krejci’s first multi-goal game of the season.
Krejci, who had three goals in his previous 23 games, tied the game at 5:30 of the third period and then picked up a loose puck in front of Brodeur and scored his 16th goal of the season in the OT, triggering a cascade of hats down onto the ice.
“I wasn’t thinking about (the hat trick), I had two goals in the month of February,” Krejci said. “But I just take it game by game.”
Tyler Seguin also scored for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who opened a three-point lead over second-place Ottawa in the Northeast Division and sent New Jersey to its fourth straight loss.
But the story was Krejci, who had three goals in his previous 23 games and tied the game after the Bruins had blown a 2-0 lead and fallen behind 3-2.
“I want to do my best every game and I was feeling really good before the game and I got (Seguin) on my line so I was excited about it,” Krejci said. “We click well together with Looch and him and it was a good game for us.”
The new line produced all four goals. Seguin also had an assist and Lucic added two assists in front of Tim Thomas, who contributed his first assist of the season.
Second-period goals by Zach Parise, Patrik Elias and David Clarkson put the Devils ahead, before New Jersey equaled its longest losing streak of the season.
“I thought that we competed real well with them,” said Brodeur, who said Boston’s Zdeno Chara was guilty of a hand pass before the tying goal. “It’s been a struggle to play against the Bruins this year, it’s hard to hide that, but I thought that today was probably one of our best efforts, physically, that we’ve played against a big physical team.”
The comeback allowed the Bruins to maintain a perfect record when ahead 2-0 or up by two goals at any time in a game. They are 12-0-0 when leading 2-0 and 29-0-0 when leading by two goals.
Julien, who said after Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Ottawa that he wasn’t worried about the offence, shook up his lines and the move paid immediate dividends, with two goals in the first 8:10 from the Krejci-Seguin-Lucic line, the first just 63 seconds into the game.
The Bruins dominated play for most of the period and took a 2-0 lead to the locker room. By the end of the second period they trailed and the home crowd was booing.
“Going into the third it was one of those games where you tell your team we played a great first period, they came back and they won the second, now who’s going to win the third?” Julien said. “We just had to park that second period aside and not go out in the third with negative thoughts and let’s go out there and do it.
“Our guys responded well.”
After Parise coverted a 2-on-1 pass from Ilya Kovalchuk (following a bad pass at centre ice by Boston defenceman Joe Corvo), Elias tied the game with his 20th goal, the ninth time he’s reached that plateau. Then Clarkson got one past Thomas from behind the net at 17:46, Clarkson’s career-high 25th goal.
Notes: Bruins D Andrew Ference left the game with a lower body injury and there was no update on his status . D Greg Zanon, acquired from Minnesota at the trade deadline, made his Bruins debut. Fellow defenceman Mike Mottau, picked up from the Islanders on Monday, was scratched. … Bruins D Johnny Boychuk missed his second game with a concussion but skated at Thursday morning’s optional practice and reported progress. . Devils D Henrik Tallinder, slated to miss six to eight weeks with a blood clot in his leg, hit the six-week mark Thursday and told the Star-Ledger he won’t be back in two weeks. . Clarkson and Devils centre Dainius Zubrus received warnings but nofines or suspensions from the NHL for hits they delivered against the New York Rangers on Monday night.