With legends Bobby Orr and Milt Schmidt on hand to help them open a new season on Causeway Street, the Bruins Thursday night were slow to get their offense going, and for a fourth time in four games gave up the night’s first goal.
But if final impressions are best, then the Bruins ultimately were near perfect, with a come-from-behind, 2-1 victory over the Devils on goals by Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron in the final 10 minutes of regulation.
Marchand tied it. Bergeron won it. And it was Marchand, Peck’s bad boy blossoming into a franchise player, who set up Bergeron’s winner with a perfect feed high into the slot. With but 1:15 to go in regulation, Bergeron stepped into a one-time snap shot from 35 feet, the puck sailing through a screen and eluding former Boston College goalie Cory Schneider and bringing down the full house of 17,565 inside TD Garden.
“I was trying just to get to the open area,’’ said Bergeron, in the lineup for the first time this season, sidelined the first three games by a suspected ankle injury. “They were playing a lot of man on man [defense], and not much room in their slot. I was trying to be above [the coverage], so maybe create some confusion with their forwards.’’
Earlier, with 9:47 gone, it was Marchand, the L’il Ball of Hate, who negated the 1-0 Devils lead when he rushed over the blue line on his off wing and nailed in one of his patented wrist shots from the top edge of the rightwing circle. The wrister is Marchand’s go-to pitch, a blistering shot that he has a knack for putting on net.
In a league that has defensemen trained to take away those shots, or cut them down well before they reach the net, Marchand used that shot to score many of his team-high 37 goals last season. He nailed in his fourth of the season Thursday night, firing it through the legs of defenseman Andy Greene and dotting the top left corner on Schneider.
“It’s hard to get shots through,” said Marchand. “But if you get it off quick and through a screen, then it is going to go in at times. And it was through the legs. That’s a tough one to stop, a tough one to see. That was a bit of a lucky bounce, I think. I thought it went off the post, but replay showed it went off the back of the knob [of Schneider’s stick]. Again, you shoot the puck and good things happen.’’
The Bruins were shooting from the outset, but nothing was happening. Through 40 minutes, they had 19 shots and no goals. Worse, they had little in the way of a threat, other than a short-range shot by Noel Acciari that hit Schneider high in the chest and a power–play attempt by Bergeron that clanged off the left post.
Meanwhile, the offense-challenged Devils (four games, six goals), also mustered nothing until the third period. They gained some traction in the second, after the Bruins did next to nothing with back-to-back power plays that included 13 seconds worth of five-on-three play.
“That’s something we know we have to get better at,’’ said Bergeron. “We need to work on our power play.’’ The Bruins are 1 for 13 with the advantage.
The Devils took the 1-0 lead at 4:14 of the third, taking advantage of a rare Bergeron hooking penalty to connect on the power play. Kyle Palmieri collected a pass from defensive point pal Damon Severson and fired a wrister through the slot. Hoping to cut the pass off in the slot, rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo watched it kick off his skate and redirect into the net, goalie Tuukka Rask committed too far left in anticipation of the pass making it through the slot.
“I was pushing off, because the guy kind of slap shot-passed it,’’ noted Rask, now 3-0 this season. “Just one of those nothing-you-can-do things. The next thing I noticed, it was in the net. Tough one, but . . . he has to try to block it and that’s just a tough break.’’
Only a week into the new season, the Bruins are now 3-1-0, a vast improvement over last season, which started with three straight home losses. They’ve outscored opponents, 13-9, and but for Saturday night’s loss in Toronto, have looked playoff-capable.
“Obviously, we got the result that we wanted,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “I thought for the most part it was an exciting game. New Jersey’s a much-improved hockey club. They’ve got a great goaltender. We told our guys we needed to be patient. It wasn’t going to be a high-scoring game. We needed to stay with it and I thought our guys did a good job. Unfortunately, they got the first goal again, but I liked our response after that.’’