For the first time this season on home ice, the New Jersey Devils forced a comeback after trailing in the second period and won as they defeated the Boston Bruins, 4-3, in overtime Tuesday night at Prudential Center’s final home game of the 2020-21 season.
Mackenzie Blackwood (13-16-4, 3.05 goals-against average, .902 save percentage in 33 games played) made 33 saves on 36 shots against in the win for New Jersey.
Boston goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (9-6-4, 2.53 goals-against average, .905 save percentage in 19 games played) turned aside 17 out of 21 shots faced in the overtime loss.
The Bruins fell to 31-14-7 (69 points) on the season, but remained in control of 3rd place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Devils improved to 18-28-7 (43 points) overall and stuck in 7th place in the division.
Boston finished their regular season series with New Jersey 3-3-2 overall in 2020-21.
The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body) and John Moore (hip) on Tuesday, while Kevan Miller (maintenance) and Jakub Zboril were removed from the lineup as Brandon Carlo returned to action from his most recent oblique injury that he sustained on April 1st against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Mike Reilly returned in Zboril’s place on the third pairing with Connor Clifton after missing Monday night’s game due to being “pretty banged up,” to paraphrase B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy.
Cassidy made one change among his forwards, inserting Trent Frederic on the fourth line in place of Karson Kuhlman.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Swayman served as Halak’s backup on Tuesday– giving Tuukka Rask the night off as the playoffs draw near.
Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players included Chris Wagner, Greg McKegg, Moore, Kase, Rask, Steven Kampfer, Zboril, Callum Booth, Anton Blidh, Kuhlman, Jarred Tinordi and Miller.
Matt Grzelcyk tied up Miles Wood away from the puck and yielded the game’s first power play to the Devils as Grzelcyk cut a rut to the penalty box for interference at 4:16 of the first period.
New Jersey was not successful on their first skater advantage of the night, but Boston began a run of three consecutive infractions as Grzelcyk was the first to commit a minor infraction, then Clifton slashed Yegor Sharangovich at 6:42 and finally, Charlie McAvoy tripped Sharangovich at 8:39– resulting in three seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage for the Devils.
New Jersey’s two-skater advantage quickly dwindled down to a regular 5-on-4 power play, but not for long as Pavel Zacha (14) wired a one-timer past Halak off of the ensuing faceoff while Clifton was set to exit the sin bin and McAvoy was in the box.
Jack Hughes (19) and Nico Hischier (3) tallied the assists on Zacha’s first goal of the game as the Devils took a, 1-0, lead thanks to the power-play goal at 8:42 of the first period.
As Clifton’s minor expired, McAvoy was freed from the box thanks to Boston’s penalty kill allowing a power-play goal against and the game resumed at full strength.
Moments later, Nathan Bastian hooked Brad Marchand and cut a rut to the box at 11:27, presenting the Bruins with their first power play opportunity of the night.
The B’s did not convert on the skater advantage, however.
Entering the first intermission, the Devils led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing the Bruins, 15-9, in shots on goal.
New Jersey led in blocked shots (5-1) and giveaways (2-0), while Boston held the advantage in hits (13-5) and faceoff win percentage (68-32).
Both teams had four takeaways each, while the Devils were 1/3 and the B’s were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.
Nicholas Merkley kicked off the second period with a hooking infraction at 3:36 and presented Boston with their second power play of the game.
This time, Patrice Bergeron (21) fired a one-timer over Blackwood’s glove from his usual spot as the bumper on the power play to tie the game, 1-1.
David Pastrnak (25) and Grzelcyk (13) had the assists on Bergeron’s power-play goal at 4:36.
Moments later, Pastrnak hooked Wood and cut a rut to the box at 7:49, but Boston’s penalty kill managed to kill off Pastrnak’s minor infraction without issue.
Late in the period, Taylor Hall dropped a pass back to Grzelcyk for a shot before the puck deflected off of Hall’s (8) leg and found its way into the back of net– giving Boston their first lead of the night in the process, 2-1.
Grzelcyk (14) and David Krejci (30) had the assists on Hall’s goal at 14:02 of the second period.
As Hall was passing through Blackwood’s “no fly zone”, New Jersey’s head coach, Lindy Ruff, used a coach’s challenge on the grounds that he believed Hall had made contact with the Devils’ netminder and therefore interfered with Blackwood’s ability to make a save.
Video review confirmed that Hall, in fact, had never touched Blackwood, yielding an automatic delay of game penalty against New Jersey, which was served by Jesper Boqvist at 14:02.
Though Boston did not score on the ensuing power play, they entered the second intermission with the lead on the scoreboard, 2-1, and in shots on goal, 27-13, including a, 12-4, advantage in the second period alone.
After 40 minutes of action, the Devils held the advantage in blocked shots (7-4) and takeaways (6-5), while the Bruins led in hits (18-10) and faceoff win% (64-36).
Both teams had four giveaways each as New Jersey was 1/4 and Boston was 1/3 on the power play heading into the final frame of regulation.
Bovqist (4) tied the game on a loose puck that was initially shot by Damon Severson, then blocked by McAvoy.
Severson (16) and Marián Studenič (1) had the assists on Boqvist’s garbage goal from the doorstep as the Devils tied the game, 2-2, at 9:10 of the third period.
Boston answered back in a hurry as Sean Kuraly (4) redirected a shot pass from Pastrnak with his skate as he was skating backwards through the low slot towards the goal line to put the B’s ahead, 3-2, at 10:42.
Pastrnak (26) and Reilly (26) had the assists on Kuraly’s goal, but the Bruins didn’t have the lead for that long.
Once again, New Jersey tied things up as Sharangovich (16) sent a wrist shot clean past Halak on a breakaway under the Bruins goaltender’s blocker less than two minutes after the B’s took the lead.
Severson (17) and Kevin Bahl (2) notched the assists on Sharangovich’s goal as the Devils tied the game, 3-3, at 12:41 of the third period.
There were no more goals, nor any penalties as the two clubs necessitated overtime to determine a winner on Tuesday night.
After regulation, the Bruins and Devils were tied, 3-3, on the scoreboard, while Boston held the advantage in shots on goal, 36-19, including a, 9-6, advantage in the third period alone.
New Jersey led in blocked shots (11-9), takeaways (9-8) and giveaways (10-6), while the B’s led in hits (26-18) and faceoff win% (64-36).
As there were no penalties called in overtime (despite a delayed penalty waiting to be called against Boston that was ultimately negated by New Jersey’s game-winning goal), the Devils finished 1/4 and the Bruins went 1/3 on the power play on Tuesday.
About midway through the extra frame, Zacha (15) waltzed through the lot slot and pulled the puck to his backhand before elevating a shot over Halak’s glove side– leaving the Bruins goaltender in a fit of rage afterward as he skated off the ice and took out his frustrations on his stick.
Hughes (20) and Will Butcher (9) celebrated their assists on Zacha’s second goal of the game, as well as the, 4-3, win.
Meanwhile, reality had set in for Boston’s backup goaltender as Halak made his first start since April 3rd– amidst an appearance on the league’s COVID protocol list, as well as the emergence of Swayman as Boston’s likely backup netminder entering the postseason– Tuesday night’s effort did not help his case for a regular role with the Bruins.
New Jersey finished the night with a, 2-0, advantage in shots on goal in the overtime period alone, but trailed Boston in total shots on goal, 36-21.
The Devils also wrapped up Tuesday night’s action leading in blocked shots (11-10) and giveaways (10-7), while the Bruins finished the game leading in hits (26-18) and faceoff win% (64-36).
The B’s fell to 3-5 in overtime (7-7 past regulation) this season, while the Devils improved to 4-2 in overtime and 4-7 overall past regulation in 2020-21.
Boston also fell to 8-9-4 (3-3-3 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 5-8-3 (2-5-3 on the road) when trailing after the first period and 22-0-3 (9-0-1 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.
Meanwhile, New Jersey is now 15-10-2 (7-8-0 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal, 13-3-1 (7-2-0 at home) when leading after one period and 2-22-2 (1-13-1 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2020-21.
The Bruins return home to host the New York Rangers on Thursday and Saturday before taking on the New York Islanders in the final home game of the regular season on May 10th.
Boston concludes the 2020-21 regular season on the road against the Washington Capitals on May 11th.