The Boston Bruins are flirting with the 100-point plateau this season after their, 5-1, victory over the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Thursday.
Boston can reach 100 points on the season in Saturday night’s tango with the Florida Panthers as the B’s roll on with their four-game road trip.
Patrice Bergeron had two goals in Thursday’s effort, while David Pastrnak, Danton Heinen and David Backes each added a goal and Brad Marchand had three assists for Boston.
Drew Stafford had the lone goal for the Devils.
Tuukka Rask (26-10-5 record, 2.35 goals against average, .918 save percentage in 42 games played) made 21 saves on 22 shots against (.955 SV%) in the win for the Bruins.
New Jersey goaltender, Cory Schneider (5-12-3, 3.18 GAA, .898 SV% in 23 GP) stopped 22 out of 26 shots faced for an .846 SV% in the loss after entering Thursday night, 3-1-1, in his last five home games.
The Bruins improved to 45-20-9 (99 points) on the season and in control of 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Devils fell to 27-39-9 (63 points) and remain last (8th) in the Metropolitan Division.
Boston also improved to 17-13-6 on the road this season, 30-6-5 when scoring first this season and 27-1-3 when leading after two periods.
Bruce Cassidy told reporters he wasn’t going to make any changes to his lineup for Boston on Thursday, while also informing them that Kevan Miller (upper body), Marcus Johnasson (lung contusion) and Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) would all be joining the club in Florida on Friday.
There’s a chance all three skaters rejoin the lineup for Saturday night’s matchup against the Florida Panthers.
Meanwhile, Torey Krug (concussion) skated on his own after morning skate on Thursday, but is not yet ready to return to game action.
Paul Carey served as the only healthy scratch for the Bruins on Thursday.
Late in the first period, Bergeron (29) scored the game’s first goal after the B’s alternate captain received a pass from Pastrnak and buried the puck while Schneider was caught in desperation behind the play– diving across the crease.
Pastrnak (36) and Marchand (57) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the Bruins led, 1-0, at 18:34 of the first period.
After 20 minutes of play, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and was tied in shots on goal with New Jersey, 7-7.
The Devils led in blocked shots (5-2), giveaways (6-0) and hits (13-6), while the Bruins held the advantage in takeaways (5-2) and face-off win percentage (67-33). Neither team had yet to see time on the power play entering the first intermission.
Almost midway through the second period, Steven Santini cross checked Pastrnak and was assessed a two-minute minor penalty at 8:58.
Boston did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.
A couple of minutes after the power play expired, Pastrnak (32) made it a two-goal game with a goal shortly after the Bruins won a face-off in the offensive zone at 12:58 of the second period.
Marchand (58) and Bergeron (41) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s goal and the B’s led, 2-0.
For the 2nd consecutive game, the Bruins increased their lead to two-goals after scoring the first goal of the game.
Almost two minutes later, former Bruin, Stafford (3) got a quick one-timer past Rask as the Boston goaltender dove across the crease a la Schneider back in the first period after the Bruins flubbed an attempt to clear the puck out of the defensive zone.
Stafford’s goal– his first in 35 games– cut the lead in half, 2-1, and was assisted by Pavel Zacha (7) at 14:51 of the second period.
Zacha had his first point for the Devils in his first game back since missing the last 16 games due to injury.
Through 40 minutes of play, Boston led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 16-15, in shots on goal. Boston also maintained an advantage in face-off win% (67-33), while New Jersey led in blocked shots (11-4), giveaways (8-0) and hits (23-11).
Both teams managed five takeaways aside after two periods and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play entering the second intermission.
Sean Kuraly blocked a shot less than a minute into the third period and the puck caromed off the Bruins forward back into the neutral zone and onto Heinen’s stick blade.
Heinen (10) beat Schneider high on the blocker side on the ensuing breakaway 29 seconds into the third period.
Boston led, 3-1, thanks to Heinen’s goal. Kuraly (13) was tabbed with the only assist in the effort.
Less than a minute later, Blake Coleman was penalized for interference at 1:21 of the third period.
Boston’s resulting power play was cut short when Pastrnak committed his own interference infraction at 3:01.
Despite an abbreviated skater advantage for New Jersey after a brief 21 seconds of 4-on-4 action, the Devils did not score on their only power play of the night.
Travis Zajac hooked Bergeron at 7:11 and served a two-minute minor penalty, but the B’s did not capitalize on their third and final power play opportunity of the evening.
With about two minutes left in regulation, Devils head coach, John Hynes, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker.
Bergeron (30) pocketed the empty net goal– his second goal of the game– for Boston from the neutral zone at 18:42, while Marchand (59) and David Krejci (45) were credited with the assists.
With his 30th goal of the season, Bergeron reached the 30-goal plateau for the 5th time in his 15-year NHL career and for the first time in back-to-back seasons.
He became the 4th player to record at least three 30-goal seasons after age 30 in Bruins franchise history, joining Johnny Bucyk (7x), Phil Esposito (4x) and Rick Middleton (3x).
Bergeron also became the 3rd 30-goal scorer for Boston this season, joining his linemates, Pastrnak and Marchand, as the Bruins have now had at least three players with 30 or more goals in consecutive seasons since last season.
Marchand, meanwhile, became the first Bruins player to record 90-plus points in a season (31-59–90 totals) since Marc Savard did so with 22-74–96 totals in 2006-07.
With almost 20 seconds left in regulation, Backes (6) fired a shot past Schneider’s glove from near the goal line along the boards to make it a four-goal lead for Boston, 5-1.
Noel Acciari (7) had the only assist on Backes’ first goal in 23 games.
At the final horn the Bruins secured the, 5-1, victory and finished the night leading in shots on goal (27-23), as well as face-off win% (53-47).
New Jersey capped off Thursday night leading in blocked shots (15-7), giveaways (9-1) and hits (26-14).
The Devils went 0/1 on the power play, while the B’s finished 0/3 on the skater advantage.
Boston is now 2-0-0 on their current four-game road trip and outscoring their opponents, 10-1.
The Bruins head to Florida on Saturday and Tampa next Monday before returning home to face the New York Rangers on March 27th. Boston hosts the Florida Panthers on March 30th before traveling to Detroit on the 31st to close out the month.