3 Takeaways From Bruins’ 3-1 Win Over Devils

For the second time in five nights, the Boston Bruins were on the second night of a back-to-back at the Prudential Center in New Jersey against the New Jersey Devils. On Dec. 23, the Bruins used four second-period goals to win 4-3, one night after rallying to beat the Winnipeg Jets, 3-2, at the TD Garden. After the three-day holiday break, the Bruins lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 27, before playing a well-rested Devils team that had been off since the game five nights earlier.

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Playing on fumes at different points of the game, the Bruins got two late third-period goals from Patrice Bergeron and Pavel Zacha to beat New Jersey for the second time in less than a week, 3-1. Here are three takeaways from Boston’s win that improved them to 28-4-3 as they head home for a New Years’ Eve afternoon matinee against the Buffalo Sabres before the 2023 Winter Classic on Jan. 2 at Fenway Park against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Bruins’ Hodge Podge Fourth Line Opens Scoring & Plays Well

Before the game, coach Jim Montgomery announced that fourth-line center Tomas Nosek would miss his first game of the season. In his place, Trent Frederic moved down from his third-line wing spot to center the fourth-line between Nick Foligno and A.J. Greer. The trio played well and got the Bruins on the board when Frederic beat Devils goalie Vitek Vanecek with a wrist shot under the crossbar.

Montgomery had different avenues he could have gone for a fourth-line center, but he gave Frederic the chance and he responded with his seventh goal of the season, one behind his career total of eight he set in 2021-22. The trio combined for six shots on the net and Greer finished with four hits. In the third period, they supplied the Bruins with some key ice-tilting shifts, which is what you want from your bottom three.

Ullmark Allows Bruins to Steal a Victory

For the second straight start, Linus Ullmark drew the assignment against the Devils, and Bergeron and Zacha’s third-period goals don’t mean much if it was not for the NHL’s leading goalie in wins, goals against average (GAA), and save percentage (SV%). As expected, the Bruins were a tired group after playing through regulation and overtime the night before in Ottawa and the leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy was on top of his game.

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In the first period, Ullmark made 16 saves, including stopping Miles Wood on a breakaway after a turnover by Connor Clifton at the defensive blueline. In the second period, another defensive zone turnover led to Dawson Mercer swinging around the Bruins net alone to the front and a sprawling Ullmark was able to get his blocker on a rising shot to deflect it over the net. As they did in the first meeting five nights earlier, the Devils made a third-period push and Ullmark once again was up for the challenge for his 20th win of the season.

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

After allowing the game-tying goal to Nico Hischier on a tip at the top of the crease, Ullmark stopped Jack Hughes on a breakaway before Bergeron and Zacha found the back of the net in the five minutes. Late in the game with the goalie pulled, New Jersey supplied more pressure, but Ullmark stopped Hughes again in close and was able to glove a Dougie Hamilton slap shot.

Bruins Survive Final Period

Before the game, Montgomery spoke with the media and the veteran coach knew what to expect with his team playing on a tough back-to-back after spending most of the previous day in the air flying from Boston to Ottawa, then to New Jersey after the game.

“I’m not worried about our legs to start. I’m worried about our legs to finish.”

Jim Montgomery Boston Bruins
Jim Montgomery, Boston Bruins head coach (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The legs were an issue all night as the Bruins struggled with turnovers, giveaways, and some sloppy passing, but they survived the final onslaught from the Devils, and Bergeron won the game with a goal that broke a 1-1 tie with 4:09 left. Hampus Lindholm picked up his second assist of the game when he flipped a wrist shot from the point toward the net that Bergeron was able to tip by Vanecek on just the fourth shot of the period for the Black and Gold. Zacha sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 1:49 left, but a majority of the play in the third period was spent in the Boston zone.

The Bruins may not have had their normal legs in the final period, but their structure was what Montgomery wanted. They did not allow the Devils, who had nine shots in the period, too many clean entries, they kept them to the outside along the boards and took away the middle of the ice. Yes, they were tired, but they did what they needed to do to survive and leave with two points against the second-place team in the Metropolitan Division.

A win is a win, especially on the second night of a back-to-back in two different countries, and the Bruins will take the two points and head home. Their goaltending was strong, they took advantage of their opportunities, they played a structured final period, and were rewarded against a rested team.

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