The Record (Hackensack N.J.)
Knowing Thursday night’s game at TD Garden might be a playoff preview, the New Jersey Devils wanted to make a statement in their final regular-season shot at the Boston Bruins.
Instead the evening ended with a 4-3 overtime loss to the defending Stanley Cup champions and the feeling of a job again left unfinished.
The positive was that the Devils rebounded after falling behind, 2-0, in the opening 8:10 to score three consecutive goals in the second period and take a 3-2 lead into the third. The negative was they failed to protect that lead in the third, a period that has been their downfall, particularly against the Bruins, all season.
David Krejci tied the game 5:30 into the third and then completed his second career hat trick 2:59 into overtime to extend the Devils’ losing streak to four games – equaling their season high.
“Yeah, it was disappointing,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said of not finishing off the Bruins in the third period. “You know the Bruins’ third periods are always their best and they have done that to us before. But, we put ourselves in a 2-0 hole and to come out of this building with a point, we’ll take that.
“If we can win (tonight in Washington), it’s a good road trip.”
In defeating the Devils all four times they met this season, the Bruins outscored them, 11-2, in the third period, including 8-0 over the last three games.
The Devils still left Boston on Thursday with a point from the overtime loss and believing they’ve done enough against the defending champs to have confidence if they face them again in the playoffs. That would be the first-round matchup if the postseason began today – with the Devils as the seventh seed and the Bruins as the second.
“(Thursday’s game) is I think the only positive thing we can take out of the (season) series,” goaltender Martin Brodeur said. “I thought we played decent after a tough start, but you know, playoffs are playoffs. I think these guys, they know with the experience they’ve got the past few years and especially last year that it’s a new ballgame when it starts.”
“The thing is we know we can play against them,” added center Patrik Elias, who scored his 20th goal of the season. “We just didn’t do it for 60 minutes in any one of those games. And in the playoffs you have to do that.”
If they do face the Bruins again, the Devils know they can’t afford another start like they had Thursday. Krejci finished a 3-on-2 rush only 1:13 into the game to open the scoring, and then Milan Lucic set up a wide-open Tyler Seguin in the left circle to make it 2-0 at the 8:10 mark.
DeBoer called his timeout after that to settle his team down and the Devils got through the remainder of the period unscathed.
The Devils came out strong in the second period and were rewarded when Zach Parise finished a 2-on-1 with Ilya Kovalchuk 6:27 in. Elias tied it by backhanding home the rebound of a Petr Sykora deflection with 5:57 left in the second.
David Clarkson then banked a left post wraparound shot in off goaltender Tim Thomas’ stick to give the Devils a 3-2 lead with 2:14 remaining in the period. That put the Devils in position to beat the Bruins for the first time this season, if they could only manage to get through the third unscathed.
They couldn’t do it.
Several Devils wondered afterward if 6-foot-9 Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara got away with a hand pass on the tying goal in gloving down a puck that had been batted toward the net by New Jersey rookie center Adam Henrique. The replay showed, however, that Chara played the puck on the backhand of his stick before Lucic passed to Krejci for a shot from outside the left edge of the crease that went in off Brodeur’s blocker.
On Krejci’s OT winner, Chara fanned on his shot from the right side of the net and passed it back to Krejci in front for a shot over Brodeur.