BOSTON – The Boston Bruins weren’t safe until the final second ticked off the clock.
P.J. Axelsson had a goal and two assists, Marco Sturm scored a short-handed goal with 0.6 seconds left in the first period and the Bruins beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 on Saturday night.
The expected defensive-minded game turned into a wild offensive contest that ended with Bruins on the ice in front and behind goalie Tim Thomas as the final horn sounded.
“It was crazy,” Axelsson said. “The guys did a great job of covering up the net.”
Boston centre Glen Metropolit was on his chest along the goal line behind Thomas while defencemen Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman were trying to stop the Devils in front.
“Whatever you have to do to keep the puck out of the net,” Metropolit said. “I got caught behind Timmy. I don’t know if I got one off my chest.”
Wideman and Marc Savard also scored for the Bruins, who netted goals in the final minute of the opening two periods en route to their third straight win after a six-game losing streak.
Dainius Zubrus, Johnny Oduya and Travis Zajac had New Jersey’s goals. The Devils gave top goalie Martin Brodeur a game off one night after he shut out Philadelphia. They lost for just the second time in seven games.
Thomas had a scoreless streak halted at 111 minutes, eight seconds early in the opening period, but finished with 42 saves.
The Devils outshot Boston 20-1 in the final period, but scored only once. Thomas’ best stop was a diving save on Zajac’s shot from in close with 5 1/2 minutes left.
“Tim played great. Besides that, we played hard,” New Jersey’s Jamie Langenbrunner said.
The players squared off after the final horn, but no punches were thrown.
“It was a scrum at the end of the game,” New Jersey coach Brent Sutter said. “The puck was loose the whole time. We just never got our sticks on it. Actually, we got a good shot on it but he made a good save on it off to one side.”
Boston coach Claude Julien, fired by the Devils late last season, has seen New Jersey get its share of late goals.
“I was on the other side last year,” he said. “We scored a lot of goals in the final seconds.”
Kevin Weekes stopped 21 shots for New Jersey.
Trailing 1-0, the Bruins took the lead with three goals in the final 5:47 of the opening period. Axelsson tied it with a turnaround wrist shot from the slot that beat Weekes over the right shoulder.
The Bruins moved ahead 2-1 when Wideman scored on a wrist shot from just inside the blue-line. They made it 3-1 on Sturm’s short-handed goal.
With Chara off for slashing, defenceman Andrew Ference’s clearing pass sent Sturm in on a breakaway. He fired a wrist shot over the net, collected the rebound off the backboards, shifted in front and tucked the puck between Weekes’ pads.
New Jersey cut it to 3-2 when Oduya’s low shot from the point appeared to be going wide, but caromed into the net off Chara’s left skate 17:11 into the second.
Boston regained a two-goal advantage, scoring again in the final minute, when Savard was positioned in front and tipped Axelsson’s shot in with 59.5 seconds to play in the period.
The Devils cut it to 4-3 on Zajac’s power-play goal with 9:27 to play.
Zubrus’ goal gave New Jersey a 1-0 lead 4:26 into the first period.
Notes: Brodeur had played the previous 10 games. He was in goal for the two previous games against Boston, both wins. … The Bruins recalled G Tuukka Rask from Providence (AHL) and he dressed as the backup. G Alex Auld’s wife, Mel, gave birth to their first child – a six-pound, nine-ounce boy, Sam Alexander, early Saturday morning. Rask was sent back down after the game.