By Jeff O’Connor
What Happened: The New Jersey Devils tried to sit back with the lead for the entire third period against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night, but got burned late in regulation and settled for a 2-1 shootout loss at TD Garden.
Star of the Game: The Bruins forecheck…it was underwhelming in the first two periods, but it came alive in the final 20 minutes as they ripped a pair of points from the hands of the Devils. They had prime chance after prime chance in the final stanza, before getting a goal from Nathan Horton with 4:05 left in regulation.
Goat of the Game: Pete DeBoer…for being OK with the Devils sitting back in the third period. Trying to protect a one-goal lead in a tough road environment against an elite team is never a good idea…ever. The team had probably their best first period of the year and followed it up with a strong second. That foundation evaporated in the third period, which carried into the extra sessions. It’s very tough to ramp up the offensive intensity after taking a period off.
Turning Point: Pick any point in the third period…it was filled with point blank Bruins chances. The only reason the Bruins didn’t win that game in regulation was because Devils goaltender Johan Hedberg played out of his mind. It looked like they were going to find a way to hold on, but as it goes…when a team pressures that many times, normally it’s a weird or bad goal that finds its way in. That’s what happened on Horton’s five-hole goal on Hedberg late in regulation.
Offense – C- – Really strong first two periods. Controlled the tempo and the offensive end of the ice. Not a lot of scoring opportunities, but when they had them, they were quality chances.
Defense – B+ – In terms of the scoreboard, the defense produced rather well. They’re still not where they need to be, but I thought they played a bit better behind their own end line as well as helping to pinch inside the offensive zone. Still a work in progress…
Goaltending – A- – Moose was all anyone could ask him to be. He stopped every golden opportunity the Bruins had in the first 55 minutes. Tough first goal he allowed through his legs on perhaps a deflected shot. Even tougher in shootout as he got stick on Brad Marchand’s winner.
Special Teams – B- – They finally got a 5-on-4 power play goal and it was pretty. Marek Zidlicky let a laser go through the slot and David Clarkson tipped it into the upper portion of the cage to give the Devils the lead in the second period. They mostly stayed out of the box, taking just three penalties and killing all of them.
Instant Analysis: I’m sure its 50/50 among the fanbase; “I’ll take a point” and “can’t be satisfied with one point after holding third period late so late”. Consider me in the latter. Can’t sit back for the final period against a deep team on the road. You’re asking for trouble and it finally spelled a tie game later in the contest. An overtime goal or shootout winner and all would have been forgiven for blowing the lead. Now can they respond? Will the crowd be out in full force to push the Devils towards that victory at home on Thursday? I hope so. Or will this carry over into a disappointing performance against a New York Islanders team that played the Devils tough in the regular season opener and raked the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road tonight.