Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, right, makes a save on a deflection by New Jersey Devils' Mike Rupp, left, during the third period of Boston's 4-3 win in a hockey game in Boston on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Boston, MA -- Boston goalie Tim Thomas made 42 saves and Bruins veteran forward P.J. Axelsson had a goal and two assists as the Black & Gold held on for a wild, 4-3, win over New Jersey on Saturday night in a sold out TD Banknorth Garden. Dainius Zubris, David Oduya and Travis Zajac scored for the Devils in a game that was really not decided until the final whistle blew.
"(Patrik) Elias and (Brian) Gionta are just hungry around our net," said Thomas sitting in his locker after the game. "(I think) they are one of the most difficult teams to play...we've faced this year.
"That's why this was such a good win."
"We could have very well won this game tonight...given the opportunities we had in the third period," said Devils head coach Brent Sutter. "We didn’t score enough (when we had) those opportunities."
Each team came off a shutout of their last opponent: Boston with a 2-0 victory over Washington on Jan. 3, and New Jersey with a 3-0 win over Philadelphia on Jan. 4. Thomas was in goal for Boston against Washington and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur was between the pipes against Philadelphia -- but not against the Bruins.
Kevin Weekes (21 saves), who spelled Brodeur, was in goal for New Jersey and would be the one who would attempt to continue the Devils shutout streak.
Unfortunately, Thomas was unable to continue his own streak as New Jersey's Dainius Zubris, knocked a puck out of mid air, and scored at 4:26 to put the Bruins on their heels for much of the first period.
New Jersey Devils' David Clarkson (23) keeps his eye on the puck after being taken down by Boston Bruins' Dennis Wideman during the third period of Boston's 4-3 win in a hockey game in Boston Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
But Axelsson, who had an outstanding game on both sides of the puck and has been Boston's MVP of late, broke the Devils defensive streak when he converted a very nifty spinning knuckle shot that went over the right shoulder of Weekes to make the score 1-1, at 14:34.
"I've played with him long enough (to know)...he's a great offensive player and he helps me defensively," said Savard of Axelsson. "Tonight, and in the last couple of games he has really stepped up.
"He has really come to the fore."
B's defenseman Dennis Wideman scored at 18:10 to make the score 2-1 Boston.
Then, with only .6 seconds remaining on the clock, B's winger Marco Sturm completed an outstanding individual effort.
While on the penalty kill, the speedy Sturm gathered a home run pass from d-man Andrew Ference and skated over the New Jersey blue line. He shot and missed, wide right, but gathered his own rebound, spun quickly, and stuffed the eventual game winner past Weekes to send his team to the locker room leading, 3-1, at the first intermission.
Boston maintained their offensive pressure through the first several minutes of the second period. In fact, the Devils did not have a shot on goal until just before the ten-minute mark of the session.
But New Jersey rebounded in the second half of the stanza.
The Devils began to really pressure the Bruins in the Boston zone. As a result, an off-target shot by Arron Asham bounced off a B's defender and directly into the Boston net.
Marc Savard negated that setback when he deflected an Axelsson shot from the point over the New Jersey goalie's crouch to make the scoreboard read, 4-2, in Boston's favor going into the second break.
The teams traded power play chances to start the third, but neither club took control of the period until Travis Zajac converted on a power play at 10:33 to make things very, very interesting at 4-3.
"We lost that edge on offense," said Wideman of the third period. "And we just kind of (sat) back and let them come at us...it starts snowballing and it's tough to get back."
New Jersey maintained their momentum throughout the final period, but Boston held on for the win despite New Jersey's persistent efforts -- especially during a scrum during the final 10 seconds of play.
Boston Bruins' Dennis Wideman (6) battles New Jersey Devils' Jamie Langenbrunner after the third period ended in Boston's 4-3 win in a hockey game in Boston Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
"Everyone was battling," said the Devils Jamie Langenbrunner. "(Zdeno) Chara and [Gionta] got into their usual pushing around.
"And obviously I’m helping with [Gionta].
"It was a good battle in front of the net. Everyone was whacking (at the puck)," he said.
"The third was extremely (hectic)," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. "But you know, I thought we played extremely well for 40 minutes.
'When they scored the first goal we didn't panic.
"They are a hard team to play against with a lead, and we got ourselves back in the game," he said.
"We had a tough third period -- Timmy (19 saves in the third) played great there -- and we have things to work on, obviously," said Savard. "But we'll take the two points."
The Bruins will take a three-game winning streak into Tuesday’s tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Garden at 7:00 p.m.
Game Notes: Shutout Streaks Snapped
Boston and Tim Thomas had their shutout streak stopped at 111:08 when New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus scored at 4:26 of the first period.
New Jersey had their shutout streak snapped at 89:07 when Boston's P.J. Axelsson scored at 14:13 of the first period.
the Bruins have now won three consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 8-12 of this season.