Patrice Bergeron scored two goals and Brad Stuart snapped a tie early in the third period as the Boston Bruins beat the New Jersey Devils 5-3 Thursday night. Matsuzaka, who signed a US$52 million, six-year contract Thursday a month after the Red Sox bid $51.11 million for negotiation rights to the Japanese ace, dropped the ceremonial opening puck to a standing ovation. Matsuzaka was wearing a No. 18 Bruins jersey – he’ll wear No. 18 with the Red Sox – and saluted the crowd before exiting through Boston’s bench.
The Bruins kept the applause going by taking a 2-0 lead in the opening 1:25 on goals by Brad Boyes and Bergeron.
“There’s a lot of Red Sox fans on this team, and we’re happy that (Matsuzaka) is here,” goalie Tim Thomas said. “I think there was energy from the crowd, and it might have boiled over to the players.”
Boyes added a goal and two assists, and Petr Tenkrat also scored for the Bruins, who broke a two-game losing streak.
Boston scored three power-play goals to defeat New Jersey at home for the first time since March 12, 2003, despite squandering leads of 2-0 and 3-2.
Patrik Elias, Jamie Langenbrunner and Mike Rupp scored for the Devils, who lost their second straight after winning five in a row.
Boyes scored 19 seconds into the first period when he fired a slap shot from just inside the blue line past backup goalie Scott Clemmensen. Following a fight that gave Boston a power play, Bergeron made it 2-0 when he scored from the left circle.
“They came out with the attitude of taking the game to us,” New Jersey centre Erik Rasmussen said. “We were a little slow reacting.”
The Devils scored twice late in the first to tie it 2-2, then came back from a 3-2 deficit in the second period before being outscored 2-0 in the third.
Following a holding call on New Jersey’s Paul Martin in the opening minute of the third, Stuart corralled a rebound just outside the crease and slapped the puck through a crowd and by Clemmensen to put Boston up 4-3 at 2:17.
Bergeron added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Thomas, who returned after missing Boston’s 4-3 loss at Montreal on Tuesday with the flu, stopped eight of his 26 shots in the third period for the Bruins.
Thomas has won six of eight decisions, but took the loss in New Jersey’s 5-1 win in Boston on Saturday.
“We didn’t have the same intensity (as Saturday),” New Jersey coach Claude Julien said. “We didn’t seem to skate as well. We were just a step behind.”
Clemmensen, making his second start of the season, stopped 40 shots in place of Martin Brodeur, who had the night off.
Boston outshot New Jersey 45-29.
Notes: Boston LW P.J. Axelsson missed his sixth straight game because of a fractured left foot. He could return next week. . . . It was Boston’s first home game without 19-year-old rookie LW Phil Kessel, who is out indefinitely after undergoing cancer-related surgery Monday. Kessel got a loud ovation when his name was announced before the game. . . . Elias has recorded a point in eight straight games. . . . New Jersey is 11-2-1 at home and 6-9-1 on the road.