NEWARK — Two goals and a boatload of saves were all the Bruins needed to overcome some holiday-week fatigue.
They upended the Devils, 3-1, at the Prudential Center after surviving a first-period barrage against netminder Linus Ullmark (29 saves).
“He was spectacular,” coach Jim Montgomery said. “We weren’t. To get three of four points on this trip right after Christmas, it speaks volumes about the character of the team. We weren’t at our best, but we found ways to win.”
And on they roll. Trent Frederic opened the scoring in the second period and Patrice Bergeron delivered the go-ahead goal with 4:08 left, deflecting a wrister from Hampus Lindholm (two assists), who set up the two most critical Boston goals.
Pavel Zacha scored an empty-netter against his old club with 1:49 left.
The winner was the 1,011th career point for Bergeron, who moved within one of Phil Esposito for third on the Bruins’ all-time scoring list.
“There’s not enough words to describe him,” Montgomery said. “That’s a big-time goal.”
The Bruins (28-4-3) — now a league-best 19-0-1 when leading after two periods and 19-0-1 after scoring first — coughed up the lead at 6:11 of the third.
Devils (22-11-2) captain Nico Hischier tied the score when he got inside position on Charlie McAvoy and tapped in a corner feed from Fabian Zetterlund. Tough break for Lindholm, who was in position to deflect the hard pass with his stick, but missed it by an inch or so.
The Bruins had a golden chance to re-take the lead at 11:18. Connor Clifton found an open Brad Marchand, who delayed and froze Vitek Vanecek (24 saves). Marchand gave Jake DeBrusk an open-net chance at the left post, but DeBrusk shoveled it into the arm of the scrambling netminder.
After offering Ullmark more support in the second period than they did in the first, the Bruins held a 1-0 lead after 40 minutes.
The lone marksman was Frederic, who was an assist away from a Gordie Howe hat trick entering the final period.
At 8:57 of the second, fightin’ Freddy took a drop pass from Hampus Lindholm, who stepped up after a Devils turnover forced by Zacha, and beat Vanecek’s blocker clean with a snapshot from the high slot. Zacha provided the net-front presence.
“I’m a Swede. Pass-first,” Lindholm said, asked if he was tempted to fire away.
It was the seventh goal of the year for Frederic, who was tabbed to center the fourth line in Tomas Nosek’s absence. He showed no fatigue after a lengthy first-period scrap with 6-foot-6 defenseman Kevin Bahl, who is four inches taller. Frederic couldn’t get a grip on Bahl, but the two traded long-armed shots and remained standing at the end.
“I know I didn’t really have it to start,” Frederic said. “[The fight] kind of just came, and I thought, ‘Why not?’ It’s been a little bit. It got me engaged, and hopefully helped the guys.”
It was Frederic’s fourth fight this year, and the 13th time a Bruin has dropped the gloves. This is a speed-and-puck-possession team, but one that’s tied for sixth-most fighting majors in the league.
“That was a great fight, wasn’t it?” Montgomery said. “Long. Bahl had maybe the advantage early. Freddy came with a couple hammers at the end.”
Coming off a shootout loss Tuesday night in Ottawa returning from a three-day holiday break, Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said he was more concerned about what his team’s energy level might be in the third period of Wednesday’s game, rather than the first.
While the Bruins had their legs at the outset, the Devils were much sharper.
They outshot the visitors, 16-8, in the opening 20. They held the Bruins to zero shots on their lone power play. They forced turnovers — 18 takeaways to the Bruins’ three — and caused a bit of scrambling in Boston’s end.
The hero was Ullmark, as it typically is when the Bruins don’t have their game. Ullmark was perfect in the opening 40, and made 14 of his 24 stops in the first. He robbed Miles Wood with a breakaway glove stop after Connor Clifton fumbled at his own blueline. He turned aside Yegor Sharangovich after the netminder swatted a loose puck back into traffic. Ullmark was lucky, too, hearing the crossbar ring after Jesper Boqvist fired one off a turnover down low.
“We’re relying on him a little bit too much these last few games,” Lindholm said. “But he’s been outstanding. I joked with him tonight, I should have a few goals [against] if I didn’t have him back there.”
In the second, Ullmark made a sprawling blocker save on Dawson Mercer, who had plenty of net up high as he wheeled around the goal. But the Bruins pulled the shot totals closer to even, putting 13 pucks on Vanecek and allowing six in the middle frame. The counter read 23-21, New Jersey, after two.
“We showed a lot of character tonight,” Bergeron said. “We stuck with it and found ways to stay in the game. We collapsed a lot. We blocked a lot of shots . We did the things we needed to do to get the result.”
They’ll have Thursday off, and return to work Friday in Brighton. Their record and stats are bordering on the absurd, but they can always improve.
“We need to practice,” Montgomery said. “Have you seen us pass the puck?”