Devils top Bruins for fourth straight home win
|Clarkson, who had a goal and an assist, puts a hit on Zdeno Chara in Monday's game.
The recipe for the Devils’ recent success on home ice has been goals, goals, and more goals.
On Monday, they scored three times on 12 shots to chase Boston starter Tim Thomas after the first period, then held on for a 3-2 triumph over the visiting Boston Bruins.
Rob Niedermayer, David Clarkson
and Zach Parise
all scored for the Devils, who took their fourth straight at home. New Jersey has tallied three or more times in each game during the streak, outscoring opponents 17-8.
Their offensive efforts were supported by 34 saves from Martin Brodeur
, who captured his NHL-leading 38th win of the season and set up Clarkson’s goal. Brodeur’s third assist of the season was the 34th of his career.
The Devils jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Boston answered back on Blake Wheeler’s goal 43 seconds into the second period. Patrice Bergeron scored with 1:03 left in regulation, after the Bruins had pulled netminder Tuukka Rask for the extra skater.
New Jersey (41-24-3) rebounded nicely from Saturday’s loss at Long Island, and improved to 3-0 against the Bruins this season. They moved within two points of idle Pittsburgh for the Atlantic Division lead and could tie for a share of the division’s top spot when they welcome the Penguins back to Prudential Center on Wednesday.
Jacques Lemaire had stressed the importance of Monday’s game to his team and they answered the call. The head coach said it’s unusual for him to discuss the standings with the players, but added that the division is within reach.
“If it’s there, we want it,” Lemaire said. “If we’re good enough, we want it.”
Clarkson’s first goal since Nov. 16 was also a bit of payback against the Bruins. It was Zdeno Chara’s slapshot that fractured Clarkson’s right leg at Boston back on Nov. 27. The injury shelved Clarkson for 36 of 38 games before he returned for good on March 2.
The rugged right wing saved one of his best games since the injury for the team that knocked him out of action.
“I think it’s starting to come around where, when you miss three months of playing hockey, it’s not fun,” said Clarkson, who had an assist and was named the game’s First Star. “It’s the most mentally tough thing you’ll ever have to go through as a competitor. For someone that’s never been hurt before that was the hardest thing I went through and I think I’m beginning to put it behind me a bit.”
The experience hasn’t taken the edge off Clarkson’s physical game when it comes to the big Boston defender.
“I wasn’t trying to think that Chara was the guy that hurt me, but if I had a chance to finish him, I was going to finish him,” he said. “It wasn’t his fault that he broke my leg, it was just a fluke thing. I wasn’t really thinking about him being out there or shooting another one because that would really (stink).”
Clarkson was the beneficiary of a brilliant pass by Brodeur, who lofted the puck from the side of the net to Clarkson waiting in the neutral zone. He raced in alone on Thomas and buried a backhander for his eighth of the season.
“To be honest, I couldn’t believe he made it, and I knew if I didn’t score, he’d make fun of me,” Clarkson said. “It was just when I got the puck, saw the opening and took off. Thankfully, I was all alone. I thought someone was close, but it was just an unbelievable play by him. I think he’d probably be the only guy that can make that play. I was impressed by how nice a pass it was.”
The Devils visit Toronto on Thursday, then finish a stretch of four games in six days on Saturday, when they welcome St. Louis.
“We just have to keep going,” said Brodeur. “We have to get up for every team. Tonight was a big game in the standings, especially with them being in the eighth spot. But we’ve got a big game coming up (against Pittsburgh).”
The home cooking on offense has been a welcome bonus.
“You need to score goals to be successful,” Brodeur said. “This game’s quick, there’s a lot of bounces everywhere and if you’re not sharp offensively, it’s going to get tough. You need to get the goals when you can, and right now at home, we’re doing well. We have to keep it up.”
Jersey’s Team opened the scoring on Niedermayer’s ninth. He won a draw back to Martin Skoula
, who walked the puck to the middle of the ice. Skoula passed back across the grain to Clarkson for a shot from the left circle that Niedermayer redirected in front at 9:58.
Clarkson and Parise struck 45 seconds apart to make it a 3-0 lead late in the first. After Clarkson had put the Devils ahead by a pair, Parise notched his 32nd of season by swatting in Mike Mottau’s rebound at 18:08.
When the Bruins ramped up the physical play in the first, the Devils battled back. Jamie Langenbrunner
was given two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct after chasing down Dennis Seidenberg for a heavy hit on Parise. Later, when Langenbrunner was checked by Mark Stuart, Rod Pelley
challenged Stuart and earned a takedown in their fight at 13:50.
“It was a dangerous play,” Langenbrunner said of Seidenberg’s hit. “He was in a vulnerable spot, a bad distance from the boards and he didn’t have the puck.”
The Devils are now assured of their 18th straight .500-plus season, moving ahead of Detroit for the longest active streak in the League. New Jersey climbs into third all-time behind Montreal with 32 from 1951-52 to 1982-93, and Boston with 29 from 1967-68 to 1995-96.
• Clarkson has learned to adjust his approach to shot-blocking when Chara has the puck.
“I tried to stay closer to him,” he said. “Last time, the biggest mistake I made was I was 10-15 feet away from him. You let a guy like that, who’s that big and has the hardest shot in the League, shoot from 15 feet away, something’s going to either crack or break. That was the biggest thing I did wrong last time, I gave him too much space and ended up paying the price for it.”
• Skoula’s assist on Niedermayer’s goal gave him his first point in a Devils uniform. Lemaire said the assist was for Skoula’s newborn son, who arrived Sunday.
• Niedermayer had a goal waved off at 8:53 of the second, when it was ruled that his tip of a Skoula shot was knocked in with a high stick. A video review upheld the call on the ice by referee Stephen Walkom.
• Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond
held his own in a bout with Boston tough guy Shawn Thornton before earning a takedown at 2:47 of the second.
• Neither the Devils nor Boston have a power-play goal in the season series, which concludes in Newark on March 30. The Devils were 0-for-1 on Monday to slip to 0-for-5 against Boston this season, while the Bruins were 0-for-2 and dropped to 0-for-7 against New Jersey.
|Three star selections