NEWARK — The Bruins were disappointed. The Devils had tied Tuesday night’s game, 1-1, with a power-play goal at 0:29 of the second period.
Dougie Hamilton was already in the box for charging. With four seconds remaining in the first, Gregory Campbell could have floated the puck down the ice to end the period. But Campbell flipped it into the Prudential Center stands instead. Campbell’s unforced error put the Bruins down two men to start the second.
But it was the manner in which they allowed the tying goal that deflated the Boston bench. Kevan Miller couldn’t win a race for the puck along the boards against Michael Ryder. Patrice Bergeron made a rare error by trying to close on the puck. The space allowed Travis Zajac to set up a locked-and-loaded Patrik Elias for the tying power-play goal.
Fifty-four seconds later, Brad Marchand punched back with the game-changing goal.
Zdeno Chara gained puck control and sent it into center ice. Marchand chased it down and sprinted over the offensive blue line. Marchand knifed through Andy Greene and Damien Brunner. The puck bounced off Marchand’s stick and onto Bergeron’s blade. As Marchand drove to the net, Bergeron sent a backhand saucer onto his stick.
At 1:23, Marchand scored his league-leading fifth shorthanded goal to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead. It was the critical strike in the team’s 4-2 win. Fifty-nine seconds after Marchand’s goal, Jarome Iginla scored his 556th career goal to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead.
“It’s always big when you can score a goal right after they do and kill their momentum,” Marchand said. “The guys did a great job killing off the penalty after that. We did a good job responding, then another quick one by Iggy right after that.”
The Bruins have won 10 straight games. It is their longest streak since ticking off 10 straight from Nov. 1-23, 2011. The playoffs cannot start soon enough.
They’re playing the best hockey in the NHL because they’re wrecking teams in different ways. Three of the four lines beat Martin Brodeur. Every player logged at least 12 minutes of ice time. Backup Chad Johnson turned back 22 pucks to give Tuukka Rask a rest.
“I think our guys have been playing hard throughout the whole lineup,” said coach Claude Julien. “We just finished five games here in seven days. That’s got to be tough on the players. In order to have that kind of success in a short span, you’ve got to be able to utilize your whole bench as much as you can. These guys have allowed us to do that with their play.”
Tuesday night, it was the No. 2 line that had the offensive performance with the most impact. In the first period, Bergeron took advantage of a bad line change by the Devils to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. He played give-and-go with Reilly Smith and slipped the puck through Brodeur (27 saves) at 14:33 of the first.
Bergeron was on the dishing end on Marchand’s shorthanded goal. But it was Marchand’s drive that made the goal happen.
When Marchand wasn’t scoring earlier in the season, he wasn’t skating well. He was slow to engage in puck battles. Once he arrived on the scene, Marchand lost more than he won.
Marchand’s different now. The left wing’s skating is dynamic. He gets up to full sprint rapidly. Then he backs up defensemen with his top-end speed. Because Marchand’s legs are dialed in, so are his hands.
In 13:07 of ice time, Marchand landed three shots and was credited with three takeaways. The scoresheet did not track the number of insults Marchand delivered to his opponents. No column is wide enough to tally that high a number.
“For Brad, it’s having a slow start to the season. Now he’s caught up to his game,” Julien said. “Hopefully we’ll see more of that down the stretch.”
Zajac gave the Devils the slightest hope by converting an odd-man rush at 9:13 of the third. But the Bruins already had scored their insurance goal at 7:11 of the third.
The No. 3 line briskly turned a neutral-zone faceoff into a goal. Carl Soderberg won a faceoff against Elias and pulled the puck back to his defensemen. Zdeno Chara started the breakout with a D-to-D pass to Hamilton. Hamilton sent the puck up the right-side wall to Loui Eriksson. Eriksson banked the puck off the wall to an in-stride Soderberg.
Before the Devils could go into full retreat, Soderberg and Chris Kelly barreled into the offensive zone. Kelly tapped in Soderberg’s feed to give the Bruins a 4-1 lead.
Few teams, especially ones rolling like the Bruins, give up three-goal third-period advantages.