3 Takeaways From Bruins’ 4-3 Win Over Devils

Playing on a back-to-back is never easy in the NHL, but right now, it seems that almost everything is coming easy for the Boston Bruins. One night after rallying for a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on home ice, the Black and Gold headed south to get their first look at the much-improved New Jersey Devils on Dec. 23. After starting the season as hot as Boston did, the Devils have cooled off, but entered the game with a 4-2 victory on the road against the Florida Panthers on Dec. 21.

There were stretches of the game for the Bruins where it looked like a team that was playing on a back-to-back, but as they have done all season long, they responded and responded big time after falling behind in the first period. Four second-period goals from Boston helped them build a 4-1 lead and they withstood a third-period rally from the Devils to escape with a 4-3 win. Here are three takeaways as the Bruins improved to an NHL-best 27-4-2 heading into the Christmas break.

Bruins Have Another Strong Second Period

For the second straight game, the Bruins entered the second period trailing, this time 1-0 on a Jack Hughes first-period goal for New Jersey. One night after erasing a 2-0 deficit to the Jets with two second-period goals, they once again put together a strong 20 minutes in the middle period with four goals against the Devils.

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Once again, it was the Bruins stars that got them going in the period. Patrice Bergeron redirected a Jake DeBrusk shot past Mackenzie Blackwood, then just over a minute later David Pastrnak scored his first of two consecutive goals to stretch his point streak to 11 games. His first goal was on a rebound, but his second was a perfectly placed shot under the crossbar after toe-dragging around a defenseman in the slot. DeBrusk closed out the scoring when he was alone at the top of Blackwood’s crease and redirect a Brad Marchand pass home for a 4-1 lead.

One reason why the Bruins are the top team in the NHL at the Christmas break is because of the way they have responded after slow starts. They were outplayed by Winnipeg, falling behind, then responding with a strong second period to rally for a win. Against the Devils, they were outshot 11-5 in the first period and it took them 20 minutes to find their game playing on a back-to-back, but as they have done all season, they responded.

Ullmark Stands Tall in Goal

Playing for a second straight night and with the Devils rested after being off the night before, you knew that the Bruins would be running on fumes in the third period and as he has done all year. Linus Ullmark stood tall in the net when his team needed him the most. Ullmark made some timely saves in the first two periods, none bigger than stopping Miles Wood on a breakaway early in the second period with the Bruins trailing 1-0. He also stopped Nico Hischier on a 2-on-1 then Tomas Tatar, but he came up big in the third period.

Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins
Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He did allow two goals in the period, but neither was his fault, and when needed, he came up with save after save. He finished the game with 37 saves, but 15 in the third period alone. He stopped Hischier again, this time making a save that hit him in the helmet, then in the final five minutes with the Devils pushing for the tying goal, he stopped Hughes at point-blank range and a Wood deflection.

In crunch time, Ullmark showed why he is one of the leading candidates through the first two and a half months of the season for the Vezina Trophy. He improved to 19-1-1 with a 1.94 goals-against average (GAA) and a .936 save percentage (SV%).

Zacha Impresses in Return to New Jersey

Bruins general manager (GM) Don Sweeney had tried unsuccessfully at the past two previous trade deadlines to acquire Pavel Zacha from the Devils, but he was finally able to acquire him in July in a trade that sent Erik Haula to New Jersey. Zacha made his first trip back to face the team that drafted him sixth overall in the 2015 Entry Draft and he didn’t disappoint.

Pavel Zacha Boston Bruins
Pavel Zacha, Boston Bruins (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Earlier in his tenure with the Bruins, Zacha has just three goals, but he has been one of the best Bruins’ playmakers this season on the second line with Pastrnak and David Krejci. Against New Jersey, he stopped a Blackwood clearing attempt along the wall and in one motion sent a pass to Krejci, whose’s shot was stopped by Blackwood before Pastrnak buried the rebound. There are so many different things that Zacha does for the Bruins that don’t show up on the scoresheet, but his value in all situations is evident on almost a nightly basis.

It wasn’t always pretty, but it’s a win, and the Bruins head into the Christmas break as the best team in the NHL record-wise after finishing a stretch of 11 games in 23 days. After a three-day break for Christmas, Boston will hit the road for back-to-back games against the Ottawa Senators and Devils again. The break is coming at a good time and gives the Bruins veterans a chance to get some rest.