Mark Stuart and Alex Auld protect the Boston net. (Photo by Steve Babineau)
Boston, MA -- The New Jersey Devils defeated the Boston Bruins, 3-1, Thursday night at the TD Banknorth Garden. Jamie Langenbrunner scored two to pace the victors, while Marc Savard scored the lone Boston goal.
Boston Bruins' Alex Auld, right, drops to the ice to make a save on a shot by New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajcac in the second period of their hockey game in Boston, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
"Tonight's win was a solid team win," said Devils head coach Brent Sutter. "Everybody played well, everybody got back to doing the things we need to do to have success."
Speaking after morning skate, Bruins head coach Claude Julien had talked about returning home after spending most of the last few weeks on the road.
"There is no doubt that it is good to be back home," said Julien. "But it's all about being cautious.
"The minute you start feeling comfortable is the minute you get yourself into trouble."
There is no way that either team was very comfortable Thursday afternoon, when a major winter storm caused havoc with an already dicey Boston commute. Despite the snow and gridlock, however, the New Jersey Devils made it to the rink above Causeway Street in time for Thursday evening's Eastern Conference match up.
In what looked to be a closely contested 60 minutes, Boston entered the game with a 17-10-3 record, while New Jersey countered with a 16-11-3 docket. Meanwhile, Hall of Famer in waiting Martin Brodeur took the net for New Jersey owning a 14-10-2 record a 2.25 GAA and a .912 Sv%.
Boston started Alex Auld who, in 12 NHL games during the 2007-08 season, had earned a 6-6-0 record -- but since joining the Bruins was a perfect 3-0-0.
In the first stanza, perhaps already weary from fighting traffic to reach the building, neither team seemed able to break out and garner the momentum -- that is until Boston's Milan Lucic fought New Jersey's David Clarkson.
Boston Bruins left wing Milan Lucic fights with New Jersey Devils right wing David Clarkson in the first period of their hockey game in Boston, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In one of his more technical pugilistic performances, the young B's power forward scored a clear TKO via three very, very well placed right hands at 19:60. That small victory sent the B's to the locker room on a bit of a high, and leading in the shots department 8-7, and in the hits column 7-5.
Like the first, the second started slowly, with both teams' defensive systems probing the other for breaks in the wall.
Unfortunately for the home crowd, New Jersey's diminutive dynamo Brian Gionta found one of those holes, and through it channeled his collegiate self and made like an Eagle breaking away on a rival Hockey East goalie in the Garden.
Gionta beat Alex Auld at 10:57 to put the Devils up, 1-0. Then, with the Devils on a 5-on-3 advantage, New Jersey right wing Jamie Langenbrunner, scored another to put Boston down, 2-0, at 14:34.
Going into the second break with a two-goal lead, the defensive minded Devils had gone a long way towards scoring a pretty impressive knockout of their own.
But with Gionta in the box for tripping former BC teammate Andrew Alberts, Marc Savard picked the B's off the ice with a spectacular shot which found its way through two New Jersey skaters and a prone Brodeur, at 1:31 of the third, to make the score 2-1 Devils.
"It was a tough game, tough to be in," said Savard. "You have to stay with it (but) It is tough not to get frustrated."
But for the rest of regulation, the Devils did frustrate Boston. New Jersey closed the trap on the Bruins and made it almost impossible for the Black & Gold to generate any further offense.
As such, when Langenbrunner scored again, into an empty net, to make the score 3-1 at 19:45, NJ had the game forked away.
Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman, left, stretches to reach the puck with New Jersey Devils right wing Brian Gionta period of their hockey game in Boston, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
"We did the things we wanted to do," said Langenbrunner. "We didn't really give them a ton of opportunities...we knew they played last night and wanted to make sure that when they got back we'd play in their end a lot."
Boston next plays Columbus, at home, on Saturday.
"Well, everybody seems to think that ‘oh, it’s going to be nice for you guys to be off the road and come home and you’ve got an easier schedule’ and I kind of chuckle because I don’t think there is such a thing as an easy schedule," said Julien.
"We look at the teams we’re going to play: Columbus is obviously a much improved team; we’ve got Ottawa on Tuesday as well and so on and so forth...I don’t think it necessarily gets easier.
"I like the fact that we’re home; it’s something that’s good, but nonetheless, all this work we’ve done on the road will not do us much good if we can’t continue to do the same thing on this home stretch," he said.