The Boston Bruins kicked off the 2020-21 regular season with a, 3-2, shootout win against New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Thursday night.
Tuukka Rask (1-0-0, 1.85 goals against average, .909 save percentage in one game played, one start) made 20 saves on 22 shots faced in the shootout win for the Bruins.
Mackenzie Blackwood (0-0-1, 1.85 goals against average, .946 save percentage in one game played, one start) turned aside 35 out of 37 shots against in the shootout loss for the Devils.
Boston improved to 1-0-0 (two points) on the season, while New Jersey fell to 0-0-1 (one point) on the season.
B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, improved to 162-66-34 in 262 games with Boston.
Devils head coach, Lindy Ruff, kicked off his new gig with a shootout loss as both teams will face each other seven more times this season in the temporarily realigned MassMutual NHL East Division for the 2020-21 season.
For the first time in franchise history (97 seasons), the Bruins will not face the Montreal Canadiens at all in the regular season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and resulting temporary division realignment with the United States’ border with Canada currently closed.
Prior to Thursday night’s action in New Jersey, Patrice Bergeron was named the 20th captain in franchise history on Jan. 6th, replacing Zdeno Chara, who served as the club’s captain from 2006-20, before departing for the Washington Capitals in free agency on Dec. 30, 2020.
David Krejci and Brad Marchand will serve as alternate captains for Boston this season.
Krejci has been an alternate captain since the 2013-14 season, while Marchand has worn an “A” on his jersey off-and-on since the 2018-19 season.
As a result of the ongoing global pandemic, teams are allowed to carry extra players on a “taxi squad” that will not count against their daily salary cap limit.
The Bruins have not announced who they will utilize on their “taxi squad” this season, but Trent Frederic, Urho Vaakanainen, Jack Studnicka, Dan Vladar and Greg McKegg all made the trip to New Jersey with the team.
David Pastrnak (hip surgery in the offseason) was out of the lineup against the Devils Thursday night, but is expected to return to play ahead of schedule since his original prognosis when he underwent a right hip arthroscopy and labral repair on Sept. 16th.
Craig Smith (lower body injury) missed Thursday night’s action and is yet to make his B’s debut since signing a three-year contract worth $3.100 million per season on Oct. 10th.
Cassidy made a few adjustments to his lines as a result of the injuries and free agency departures in the offseason.
The first line consisted of Marchand at left wing, Bergeron at center and Studnicka on right wing.
Rounding out the top-six forwards on the second line were Ondrej Kase, David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.
Charlie Coyle centered the third line with Nick Ritchie at his left side and Anders Bjork on his right side, while Sean Kuraly centered the fourth line with Frederic and Chris Wagner as his wings.
On defense, Cassidy started Matt Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller– honoring Miller in his first game back in 651 days since multiple knee injuries dating back to April 2019.
Jeremy Lauzon was paired with Charlie McAvoy and Jakub Zboril was partnered with Brandon Carlo.
Karson Kuhlman remains in COVID protocol, while Par Lindholm, John Moore and Connor Clifton were healthy scratches. Smith and Pastrnak were out of the lineup due to their injuries.
Early in the opening frame, Jesper Boqvist slashed Frederic and presented the Bruins with their first power play opportunity of the night at 6:14 of the first period.
Boston’s skater advantage didn’t last long as Grzelcyk caught Yegor Sharangovich with a slash at 7:16.
After an abbreviated period of 4-on-4 action followed by a short New Jersey power play, neither team could muster anything on the scoresheet.
McAvoy laid out Sharangovich with a crushing hit at 13:19, but was too far from the puck and assessed a minor infraction for interference.
The Devils were not successful on the ensuing power play, however.
Late in the first frame, Miles Wood collided with Rask and cut a rut to the box with a goaltender interference infraction at 17:02.
Boston didn’t waste much time getting to work on the resulting power play as Marchand (1) one-timed a redirection past Blackwood from just outside the crease to give the Bruins the first lead of the night, 1-0.
Krejci (1) and Bergeron (1) notched the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal at 17:40 of the first period.
Entering the first intermission, the Bruins were dominating in possession, on the scoreboard, 1-0, and in shots on goal, 16-4.
The B’s also held the advantage in faceoff win percentage, 67-33.
New Jersey, meanwhile, led in blocked shots (7-3), giveaways (8-2) and hits (12-5), while both teams had one takeaway each in the first 20 minutes of game action.
The Devils were 0/2 and the Bruins were 1/2 on the power play entering the middle frame.
Kuraly tripped Sharangovich at 2:41 of the second period and presented New Jersey with an early skater advantage in the period, but Boston’s penalty kill remained strong.
McAvoy was guilty of hooking Janne Kuokkanen at 7:56, but once again New Jersey’s power play couldn’t score.
Midway through the game, the Devils committed a bench minor for too many skaters on the ice at 10:53.
Newcomer, Andreas Johnsson, (acquired in the offseason via a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs) served the penalty while Boston’s power play went powerless.
Through 40 minutes of play on Thursday, the Bruins held onto the, 1-0, lead and led in shots on goal, 26-11– including a, 10-7, advantage in the second period alone.
New Jersey led in blocked shots (10-6), takeaways (6-2), giveaways (16-4) and hits (20-8), while Boston led in faceoff win% (63-37) after two periods.
The Devils were 0/4 on the power play, while the B’s were 1/3 entering the dressing room for the second intermission.
Kuokkanen was penalized for holding Kuraly and yielded another power play to Boston at 6:18 of the third period.
Shortly after killing off the infraction, Wood (1) broke free from the Bruins’ defense and snapped a shot over Rask’s blocker side to tie the game, 1-1, at 8:51 of the final frame of regulation.
Jack Hughes (1) had the only assist on Wood’s goal.
Moments later, Krejci hooked Travis Zajac and was sent to the sin bin at 10:14, but New Jersey’s power play didn’t last long as Wood ran into Rask again and picked up another goaltender interference infraction at 11:13.
The two clubs had about a minute of 4-on-4 action before an abbreviated power play followed for the Bruins.
Ritchie (1) scored a close range goal similar to Marchand’s to put the B’s back on top, 2-1, with a power-play goal of his own.
Marchand (1) and Grzelcyk (1) tallied the assists on Ritchie’s goal at 13:12, but Boston didn’t hold the lead for long as they surrendered a wacky goal 34 seconds later.
Ty Smith (1) scored his first career National Hockey League goal as the last Devils player to touch the puck before it bounced off of McAvoy, then Lauzon, Lauzon’s stick, McAvoy again and finally floated over Rask and into the twine.
The fluke goal tied the game, 2-2, and was assisted by Matt Tennyson (1) and Hughes (2) at 13:46 of the third period.
At the end of regulation, the score remained even, despite Boston outshooting the Devils, 35-18.
The Bruins had a, 9-7, advantage in shots on goal in the third period alone, while New Jersey led in blocked shots (13-6), takeaways (11-3), giveaways (19-6) and hits (26-13) after regulation.
Boston led in faceoff win%, 58-42, entering overtime.
As no penalties were called in the extra frame, the Bruins finished the night 2/5 on the power play, while the Devils went 0/5 on the skater advantage.
The two teams swapped chances in overtime– including a couple of heart-stopping moments where the Devils nearly completed the comeback, but neither side could seal the deal on an overtime win.
Despite Cassidy’s best efforts starting Coyle, DeBrusk and McAvoy in overtime, as well as Ruff’s lineup of Hughes, Kyle Palmieri and P.K. Subban in 3-on-3 OT, a shootout was necessary.
The Bruins finished the night leading in shots on goal, 37-22, despite being outshot, 4-2, in overtime alone.
New Jersey finished Thursday’s effort leading in blocked shots (14-7), giveaways (19-6) and hits (26-13), while the Bruins settled for the final advantage in faceoff win% (57-43).
The Devils elected to shoot first in the shootout and sent Nikita Gusev out to get the job in round one, but Rask stoned him cold as Gusev attempted to go five-hole on the veteran netminder.
Coyle was denied by Blackwood with a pad save as the Bruins forward tried to pull the New Jersey goaltender out of position.
Boqvist was stopped by Rask in a routine save while Kase couldn’t sneak one past Blackwood’s blocker side in the second round of the shootout.
After Hughes lost the puck while attempting to dangle his way into the low slot, Cassidy sent Marchand to try to get the win for Boston.
Marchand came through for his coach and the rest of the Bruins with an off-tempo shot through Blackwood’s five-hole after getting the New Jersey goaltender to commit to his fake handiwork before taking the shot.
The Bruins won the shootout, 1-0, after three rounds and clinched the, 3-2, shootout victory over the Devils to start the 2020-21 season.
It was Boston’s first shootout win since Feb. 20, 2019, when the B’s downed the Vegas Golden Knights on the road in what was also a, 3-2, shootout victory.
With the win, the Bruins improved to 1-0-0 when leading after the first period, 1-0-0 when leading after the second period, 1-0-0 when scoring the game’s first goal and 1-0 in shootouts (1-0 past regulation) this season.
Boston continues their three-game road trip on Saturday afternoon with a rematch against the Devils in New Jersey at 1 p.m. ET before heading to Nassau Coliseum on Monday (Jan. 18th) for a game with the New York Islanders.
The Bruins return to Boston for their home opener at TD Garden on Jan. 21st against the Philadelphia Flyers.
There will be no fans in attendance in Boston due to COVID-19 restrictions in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.