With Cory Schneider out of the lineup due to an abdominal strain and Keith Kinkaid performing well below average thus far, the New Jersey Devils turned to Mackenzie Blackwood in goal for the time being and it’s beginning to pay off with a, 5-2, victory over the Boston Bruins Thursday night at TD Garden.
The win was Blackwood’s first career NHL victory in just his fourth career appearance in the crease at the top level of professional hockey in the world.
Blackwood (1-1-0 record, 2.16 goals against average, .939 save percentage in four games played) stopped 40 out of 42 shots faced for a .952 SV% in the win for the Devils.
Jaroslav Halak (12-6-2, 2.28 GAA, .928 SV% in 22 GP) made 28 saves on 32 shots against for an .875 SV% in the loss for Boston.
The Bruins fell to 20-14-4 (44 points) on the season and remain in 4th place in the Atlantic Division standings, while New Jersey improved to 13-16-7 (33 points), but stayed in 8th place in the Metropolitan.
Prior to Thursday night’s action, B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy indicated Jake DeBrusk, Zdeno Chara and Kevan Miller would all be making their returns to the lineup, while Charlie McAvoy would be out of the action against the Devils with a lower body injury sustained after blocking a shot last Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
McAvoy is considered day-to-day and there is no timetable for Saturday night’s matchup in Buffalo against the Sabres regarding his playing status.
With the return of Chara on the blue line, the Bruins captain was paired with Matt Grzelcyk. Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo remained the second defensive pairing, as John Moore and Kevan Miller were reunited as the bottom pair.
Damon Severson (5) kicked things off 25 seconds into the action, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead after New Jersey won a face-off in their own zone, then quickly skated the puck up ice with little pressure.
Moments later, Stefan Noesen hooked Miller and sent Boston on the power play for this first time of the night at 4:15 of the first period.
The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
About ten minutes later, Moore tripped Kyle Palmieri and gave the Devils their first power play of the evening.
Palmieri (19) enacted his revenge on the scoreboard, capitalizing on a shot that went his way for the power play goal at 15:25 of the opening period.
After one period, the Devils led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 12-10, in shots on goal. New Jersey also held the advantage in blocked shots (7-1), takeaways (6-3), hits (11-9) and face-off win percentage (53-47), while Boston led in giveaways (10-4).
The Devils were 1/1 on the power play entering the first intermission, while the B’s were 0/1.
Early in the second period, Cave tripped Greene, but New Jersey was unable to convert on the ensuing power play at 3:06 of the middle frame.
Late in the second period, while pinching deep into the offensive zone, Moore sent a tape-to-tape pass to Wagner (4) to put the Bruins on the board and cut New Jersey’s lead in half, 2-1, at 15:07.
Moore (5) and Heinen (6) had the primary and secondary assists on the goal.
Greene followed up with a tripping infraction of his own late in the period, having taken down Krejci with his stick at 19:48. The ensuing skater advantage for the B’s would carry over into the third period, as the Devils went into the dressing room for the second intermission with the lead, 2-1.
Boston rallied for a, 19-9, advantage in shots on goal in the second period, good enough to pull ahead, 29-21, in total shots on goal through 40 minutes.
After two periods, New Jersey maintained the advantage in blocked shots (9-4), takeaways (14-4) and hits (23-16), while Boston led in giveaways (17-10) and face-off win% (51-49).
The Devils were 1/2 on the power play after 40 minutes of play and the Bruins were 0/2.
Early in the third period, Blake Coleman (10) blocked a shot from Krug, then went the length of the ice as Carlo tried to wrap his stick around him.
While Carlo tried to tangle with Coleman, the New Jersey forward deked Halak out of his mind and scored on an individual effort made to look easy at 4:15 of the third.
The Devils once again had a two-goal lead, 3-1.
About a few minutes later, Miller tripped Miles Wood as Wood nearly slid the puck underneath Halak and into the twine. The Bruins successfully killed off Miller’s infraction.
Past the midpoint of the final frame of regulation, Nico Hischier (10) received a pass from Wood as Wood broke free from Krug and elevated the puck past the Bruins netminder to make it, 4-1, New Jersey.
Wood (6) and Noesen (4) tallied the assists on Hischier’s goal at 12:43.
With about three minutes remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled his netminder for an extra attacker.
Despite Bergeron (12) notching a goal on a redirection from DeBrusk (his third assist of the season) to make it, 4-2, at 17:05– pulling Halak did not go as planned.
Backes skated by Coleman and delivered a blow to the head at 18:00 and received a two-minute minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.
While on the penalty kill in the final two minutes of regulation– and trailing by two goals– Cassidy pulled his goaltender again for an extra skater, though New Jersey was able to capitalize with an empty net power play goal at 19:12 thanks to Coleman (11).
Hischier (15) and Greene (9) collected the assists on Coleman’s second goal of the night and the Devils held onto the 5-2 victory.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (42-33), giveaways (17-11) and face-off win% (56-44), while New Jersey led in blocked shots (19-4) and hits (28-20). The Devils went 2/4 on the power play, while the B’s went 0/2.
The Bruins are now 6-7-0 in the month of December with one game remaining (this Saturday in Buffalo) before the dawn of the New Year (2019).
The B’s take on the Sabres on the road this Saturday before traveling to Notre Dame Stadium for their New Year’s Day matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.