Oskar Steen scored his first career National Hockey League goal and David Pastrnak ended a drought as the Boston Bruins defeated the New Jersey Devils, 5-3, at TD Garden on Tuesday night.
Linus Ullmark (9-5-0, 2.58 goals-against average, .917 save percentage in 14 games played) made 23 saves on 26 shots against in the win for the Bruins.
Devils goaltender, Mackenzie Blackwood (8-7-3, 3.32 goals-against average, .895 save percentage) stopped 29 out of 34 shots faced in the loss.
Boston improved to 17-10-2 (36 points) overall and in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division– one point ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, while New Jersey fell to 13-16-5 (31 points) on the season and trapped in 7th place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Bruins were without the services of Karson Kuhlman (COVID protocol), Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol) and Jakub Zboril (ACL, right knee) on Tuesday night as DeBrusk joined Kuhlman in the National Hockey League’s COVID-19 protocol hours ahead of hte game.
Curtis Lazar returned to action after missing Sunday’s, 5-1, matinée win in Detroit, while Steen was promoted to the third line right wing with Nick Foligno taking over DeBrusk’s slot at left wing.
As a result of DeBrusk’s absence and Steen’s promotion, Lazar was back in his regular role on the fourth line.
Anton Blidh was the only healthy scratch with John Moore on Boston’s taxi squad.
Tuesday night marks the first time this season that Steen is making an appearance in consecutive games since being recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL). He appeared in back-to-back games on March 16th and 18th after being recalled last season.
Though he’s only appeared in seven career NHL games, the 23-year-old native of Sweden has three assists in four games this season entering Tuesday.
Three members of the Bruins’ staff joined DeBrusk and Kuhlman in COVID-19 protocol on Tuesday, including assistant coach, Kevin Dean.
As a result, Joe Sacco was in charge of the defenders against New Jersey.
Tuesday night also marked Military Appreciation Night at TD Garden as several Boston players contributed to more than $25,000 in donations for tickets that were given to active military members and their families in accordance with the Bruins “Seats for Soldiers” campaign.
According to a release from the club, Brandon Carlo, Connor Clifton, Charlie Coyle, Foligno, Derek Forbort, Trent Frederic, Matt Grzelcyk, Kuhlman, Charile McAvoy, Mike Reilly, Craig Smith and Jeremy Swayman all offered donations.
Early in the opening frame, Lazar (3) got a lucky break and strode towards the net before flinging a fluke shot through Blackwood’s five-hole as the Devils’ goaltender shifted his leg pad at just the right time.
The Bruins led, 1-0, as a result of Lazar’s individual effort at 2:53 of the first period.
Midway through the first period, Andreas Johnsson took an errant puck off of his face on an inadvertent flip pass attempt from Carlo intended for Taylor Hall.
Johnsson returned to action without issue.
Boston led, 1-0, heading into the first intermission and held a, 10-6, advantage in shots on goal.
The B’s also led in faceoff win percentage (62-38), while the Devils held the advantage in blocked shots (4-3), takeaways (2-1), giveaways (5-2) and hits (11-9).
There were no penalties called in the opening frame, so both New Jersey and Boston had yet to see time on the skater advantage entering the middle period.
Nathan Bastian spent enough time in Seattle for a cup of coffee with the Kraken (12 games) before he was claimed off waivers and returned to New Jersey (the team that had left him exposed at the 2021 Expansion Draft in July).
Tuesday night, in his 16th game with the Devils this season, he was the beneficiary of a timely poke check to breakup a pass attempt from Carlo to Pastrnak– breaking free in the process while both Bruins skaters trailed helplessly.
Bastian (5) beat Ullmark under the glove to tie the game, 1-1, on a great individual effort 57 seconds into the second period.
Less than a minute later, the Bruins took the lead back with a wacky goal.
Foligno sent a shot off of Blackwood that floated up the New Jersey netminder’s shoulder before rolling on top of the net whereby Steen (1) popped it up from beneath the crossbar as he battled a Devils defender in the crease and deflected it off of Blackwood’s back and into the twine– rather, under the twine.
Though everyone may have been perplexed as to the legality of the goal when they saw it in real time, Steen’s stick never touched the puck above the bar, technically speaking.
Besides, it deflected off of Blackwood before crossing the line too, so it’s not like Steen really meant to send the puck into the net as much as he was simply trying to keep it in play.
Foligno (5) and Forbort (2) tallied the assists on Steen’s first career NHL goal and the B’s took a, 2-1, lead at 1:17 of the second period.
New Jersey answered back in a hurry with a garbage goal of their own after Jack Hughes sent a shot on goal that rebounded to some open ice in the slot where Tomáš Tatar (7) buried the loose puck on the doorstep– tying the game, 2-2, in the process.
Hughes (9) and Jesper Bratt (21) were credited with the assists on Tatar’s goal at 3:05 of the second period.
The two teams combined for three goals in a span of 2:08.
That soon became four goals combine in a span of 8:45 as Frederic (2) banked a backhand shot off of Blackwood on the short side to put the Bruins up, 3-2, at 9:42 of the second period.
Lazar (4) had the only assist on the goal.
A few minutes later, Dawson Mercer took a puck off the face as McAvoy tried to flip the puck into the attacking zone. Mercer returned shortly thereafter.
Midway through the middle frame, the night’s first penalty was assessed as Hall tripped up Ryan Graves, yielding the Devils their first and only power play opportunity of the night at 13:45.
New Jersey didn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Through 40 minutes of action, the B’s led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and dominated shots on goal, 25-17, including a, 15-11, advantage in the second period alone.
The Devils held the lead in blocked shots (8-5), takeaways (8-2) and giveaways (10-5), while Boston led in hits (22-17) and faceoff win% (67-33).
As only one penalty was called up through the second intermission, only New Jersey had seen any time on the skater advantage and the Devils were 0/1. Meanwhile, the Bruins remained 0/0 as they had yet to be presented with a power play opportunity.
That power play presented itself early in the third period– at 5:28 to be exact– when Damon Severson was assessed a holding infraction.
But Boston didn’t capitalize on their only skater advantage of the night.
Instead, Severson (5) exited the box to an aerial pass through the neutral zone from Michael McLeod and promptly scored on a breakaway on Ullmark’s short side to knot the game up, 3-3, at 7:36 of the third period.
The Bruins had been caught in the vulnerable minute after special teams action.
Midway through the final frame, however, Pastrnak got to a dump-in first in the corner from Hall and cut back to the slot– wrapping the puck with him for a shot on Blackwood.
Pastrnak (7) gathered the ensuing rebound and elevated a quick reactionary shot over Blackwood’s glove to end a 10-game scoring drought and put Boston ahead once more for good, 4-3, at 14:11.
Hall (11) and Erik Haula (5) tallied the assists as the new-formed second line continued to strengthen their chemistry together.
With 1:46 remaining in the action, Devils acting head coach (as head coach, Lindy Ruff, is currently in COVID protocol), Alain Nasreddine, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but it was ultimately to no avail.
New Jersey iced the puck with 52.1 seconds remaining and Blackwood was forced to return to the crease as the Devils would rather not give up a cheap goal in their own zone.
Except that’s what ultimately happened.
Boston forechecked and fought along the boards well enough to kill some time until the puck was freed and sent along the blue line where Tomáš Nosek found Carlo (3) for a wrist shot that deflected off of Mercer and squibbed through Blackwood’s five-hole to extend the Bruins’ lead to two-goals.
Nosek (4) had the only assist on Carlo’s goal at 19:37 of the third period as the B’s sealed the deal on what became a, 5-3, victory Tuesday night on home ice.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 34-26, despite both teams amassing nine shots each in the third period alone.
The Devils exited TD Garden with the advantage in blocked shots (13-9) and giveaways (15-10), while the Bruins wrapped up Tuesday’s action leading in hits (29-25) and faceoff win% (64-46).
Both teams finished 0/1 on the power play.
For the second time this season, the B’s have won three consecutive games– with New Jersey having been one of the three teams they’ve defeated in each three-game win streak.
Boston is 2-0-0 against the Devils in their regular season series with one final meeting remaining currently scheduled for March 31st at TD Garden.
The Bruins improved to 11-4-0 (5-2-0 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal, 12-0-0 (5-0-0 at home) when leading after the first period and 12-1-0 (4-1-0 at home) when leading after two periods this season.
New Jersey dropped to 5-12-2 (3-7-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 2-11-2 (1-6-0 on the road) when trailing after one and 2-16-2 (1-9-1 on the road) when trailing through the second period in 2021-22.
Fresh off of their, 6-4, loss in the 2022 Winter Classic at Target Field, the Minnesota Wild pay a visit to Boston on Thursday before the Bruins hit the road for a pair of games on Saturday in Tampa and next Monday in Washington, D.C.
The B’s return home after visiting the Capitals to kickoff a seven-game homestand on Jan. 12th against the Montréal Canadiens in a game that was originally scheduled to be played in Montréal before the rise of the Omicron variant restricted indoor venue attendance across Canada.
Tickets for Boston’s game against the Habs on March 21st will be honored on Jan. 12th as the game has been moved up in the schedule.