BOSTON - Even though the season is still young, Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas put a lot of emphasis of this meeting with the slumping New Jersey Devils.
Thomas met the challenge and made 28 saves to earn his fourth shutout of the season and lift the Bruins to a 3-0 win over the Devils on Monday night. Boston snapped a two-game overall losing streak and a three-game slide at home.
"I personally approached it as a must-win, and I think the team did, too," Thomas said. "We needed to get back on track. We needed to show some urgency.
"We faced a team that's been playing better but has struggled this year and we needed to come out with a win so that we could start building and getting back to the game we were playing when we were having success."
Boston had scored one total goal in losing to Montreal and Ottawa and netted only four in its previous three home games, but Michael Ryder, Nathan Horton and Blake Wheeler scored and Mark Recchi had two assists to back Thomas.
After being booed during a poor performance in Saturday night's 2-0 loss to Ottawa, the Bruins gave a good effort from start to finish against the Devils. Thomas made a couple of key early saves and didn't have to work too hard the rest of the way to improve to 9-1 this season and post his 21st NHL shutout.
The Bruins had surrendered the first goal in five straight and were 1-3-1 in that span. They scored first Monday night and are 7-0 in games they've led 1-0.
"We realized the importance of the start, and I thought we really did a good job establishing that," captain Zdeno Chara said.
The Devils (5-11-2) took their third loss in four games and fifth in seven contests under first-year coach John MacLean. New Jersey has been shut out in three of its last six games and has scored one goal or fewer nine times.
"It's tough because when you're a competitor and you're a team, you want to do well," said goalie Martin Brodeur, who didn't look sharp in his second game after missing two because of a bruised right elbow. "You win one game, lose two, win one lose two, eventually it will get harder to get back at it. Definitely, it's a tough situation for everyone.
"Hopefully we'll get out of it and laugh about it but right now it's not much fun."
The Devils, who beat Edmonton in overtime Friday night for their first home victory, haven't won consecutive games this season.
"We have to score, too," MacLean said. "Their guys get opportunities, and it's not like they outchanced us terribly or had more shots. When we get our chances, we have to bury them.
"They outmuscled us around the net. It's unacceptable."
Boston had a 5-on-3 power play in the first period when it grabbed the lead. Ryder was to the right of Brodeur and fired a sharp-angle shot that found its way into the net at 15:26 for his fifth goal.
Ryder has had a strong start to the season and could be subject to a trade because of salary cap reasons when injured players Marc Savard and Marco Sturm return. Neither player is expected back before next month.
Horton scored his eighth goal 43 seconds into the second period, beating Brodeur on a long snap shot from the right side.
The Bruins pushed their lead to 3-0 when Wheeler carried the puck down the left side and beat Brodeur with a wrist shot 43 seconds into the third.
NOTES: Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner missed his second straight game because of neck soreness and a possible concussion, resulting from a headfirst spill into the boards last week. D Matt Taormina joined the Devils' long list of injuries when he hurt his left foot in practice on Sunday. D Matt Corrente returned after missing seven games because of a broken left hand. ... Bruins D Johnny Boychuk (wrist), who has missed nine games, might return Wednesday. C David Krejci is skating after sustaining a concussion on Nov. 6. Mark Stuart and Wheeler of the Bruins both purchased US$5,000 worth of tickets for military personnel and their families on Military Appreciation Night. Bruins fans donated over $84,000. ... Boston played its fourth game in six days and is in a stretch of 14 games in 26 days. ... The Devils started a three-game road trip.