NEWARK, NJ - For the second straight game against a desperate opponent, the Bruins jumped out to a 4-0 lead, with a scoring output to match, en route to a 5-4 win over the slumping Devils in New Jersey at the Prudential Center.
The Bruins have now scored 11 goals in the past two games, surpassing their eight goals scored in the their previous five before the recent outburst.
The Carolina Hurricanes were 1-10-1 when they played the B's on Monday night; the New Jersey Devils were winless in seven straight, with their playoff hopes on the line - but both teams played with urgency and never stopped battling.
At the end of it all, the Bruins, though preaching that they still need to find their full-60 hockey, ended the night at the top of the Northeast Division, jumping one point on the Montreal Canadiens.
"Well, it's certainly nice to be there in first place and that was certainly a little bit of motivation tonight - and we accomplished our goal," said Coach Julien from the visiting team locker room following the win. "That's not to say we played a great game but we accomplished the goal."
The first period was a disjointed one to start; four penalties were assessed to the Bruins - three within the first five minutes - and one to New Jersey. The B's had to kill off a 5-on-3 in that mix when the puck deflected out of play off Zdeno Chara's stick in the defensive zone during the kill - and the league-leading PK didn't disappoint.
After a Johnny Boychuk penalty shot (the result of a shorthanded breakaway) couldn't find its way past Martin Brodeur, Daniel Paille and Rich Peverley converted on a 2-on-1 down a man to give the B's a 2-0 lead just 4:51 into the first, adding to the Gregory Campbell hard-work, net-front tally just 1:10 in (made possible, of course, by Jaromir Jagr's other-worldly puck control).
"Obviously, not only did they kill, but they scored a couple of shorthanded goals and that really set the tone for us," said Coach Julien, on his aggressive PK that has scored just as many shorthanded goals on the road (five) as goals allowed by the opponent on the kill. "And you always like to play with the lead and we got a pretty good lead there in the first."
Campbell ended the night with 4:43 out of his 21:12 total ice-time played on the penalty kill, with his second goal coming on the man-disadvantage, and postgame, he talked about the pride the B's take in that area of their game.
"Sometimes you find yourself in that position and can really change the momentum of the game either way," said Campbell, whose effort on the PK is always noticeable. "We were fortunate to get out of that, our goal in killing penalties is to do just that, killing penalties."
"We were able to get a couple goals there, but most importantly, for us, is that we were strong killing."
All of the special teams in the first, though, made for a fairly disjointed period of hockey, with Jaromir Jagr and Tyler Seguin not seeing much ice time in the beginning because of the penalty killing, and Jordan Caron and Shawn Thornton weren't able to hit the ice for their first shift with Rich Peverley until past the midpoint of the period.
"Absolutely, there were some guys sitting on the bench there forever," said Coach Julien. "It was really tough to get those guys into the game."
"It was hard to get some momentum and when you're playing back-to-back games, you fear utilizing the same players too much."
The special-teams factor continued throughout the game, in which the B's ended up being called for eight penalties, and New Jersey got a second wind with a shorthanded goal, when Boston was on a five-minute power play at the end of the second period.
With just over five minutes left, Anton Volchenkov was called for elbowing Brad Marchand and was assessed a game misconduct. Marchand did not return to the game and Coach said he didn't have an update yet on the winger following the game.
When asked if there was a momentum shift following that point in the game, Coach responded, "It's pretty obvious, we gave them some life, and that was probably the thing that disappointed the most."
"And that's again, had a good first period in my mind and we got a little bit lackadaisical in the second, even before [the five-minute power play] - we weren't as good as we could have been."
"But we had to go out in the third and regain the momentum and I thought we did a good job of that, we came out, sure of ourselves."
"They scored a goal that made it 4-3 at the time but we didn't - as we have in the past at times kind of panicked a little bit - I didn't think we panicked and we went on got the next goal so there's some good things to build on."
Tyler Seguin's tally from the goal mouth with 3:39 left in the game gave the B's a much-needed lift, after they had seen a hard-fought 4-0 lead evaporate.
"We expected a push all game, that's why we came out so hard," said Seguin, on the Bruins' strong start, something that's been hard to execute until recently.
"I think when we saw ourselves get three goals, we were happy with that. I guess we got satisfied. We really took our foot off the gas and they came back, gained momentum, and almost stole one."
While correcting their starts - with the two 4-0 leads in their past two games - and finding the scoring touch, the B's are looking to build on the wins, but still strive for the full 60-minute effort in their final nine games.
"It's clicking a little bit more," said Campbell, on the Bruins finding a complete game. "I think you're right, I think either it's a slow start or it's a slow finish. Today was a slow second period and we sat on our lead, got comfortable a little bit, and good teams find a way to play a complete game and be consistent throughout the game."
"Give them credit, they worked hard to get back in the game, but I guess the onus is on us to stay with the game despite the score."
"We're definitely not playing our full 60-minute game," Paille agreed. "But we've got to look at the positives and continue to think that way. One of the struggles we have been doing is not starting very well, and we did that the last couple games."
"I think we've progressed pretty good so far these past couple games. We just need to be ready for tomorrow."
A quick turnaround awaits the Bruins, who will pocket these two points, claim first in the Northeast, and travel back to Boston, with another desperate opponent in the New York Islanders awaiting a match-up at TD Garden on Thursday night.
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