NEWARK — Perhaps it was fitting that during six-on-five play late in the third period, with his team desperate for the tying goal, Matt Beleskey broke his stick. It let him down all night.
Beleskey had five of the Bruins’ 40 shots on net, most of the Grade-A variety. None of the five went in. Beleskey and the Bruins made Keith Kinkaid (39 saves) look like Martin Brodeur.
“I’ve got to put one of those in,” said the No. 2 left wing after the Bruins’ 2-1 loss to New Jersey at Prudential Center on Tuesday night. “He did play good. He made some big saves. Breakaway, two-on-one, he made good saves. But there were a couple of chances where I didn’t pick my spot or didn’t hit my spot. It’s one of those nights.”
No chance was better than the point-blank strike Beleskey stared down midway through the third period. David Krejci shot a long-distance puck that thudded off Kinkaid’s far pad. The rebound skittered into the slot for Beleskey. The left wing, unable to get a good strike at the puck, flubbed it right back into Kinkaid’s gear, leaving the Bruins short a goal.
“I felt like it was kind of jammed in my feet and there was another stick in there,” Beleskey said. “I just tried to get it toward the net. Unfortunately, not the right part of it.”
The Bruins overwhelmed the Devils for most of the game. They recorded a 40-15 advantage in shots. They led in attempts, 64-29. The Bruins had a handful of odd-man rushes in the first period.
But at this point of the season, it really doesn’t matter. They will be judged on winning games, which requires scoring goals and preventing opposing power-play strikes from going in. Against the down-and-out Devils, the Bruins failed in both categories.
“Disappointing, frustrating, whatever word you want to use,” said coach Claude Julien. “We could have put that game away in the first period with the outnumbered situations we had. I think we had three two-on-ones, a breakaway, a power play. Nothing to show for it.
“You can look at it whichever way you want. You’ve got to look at yourselves and blame yourselves for this loss. You can say you tried. But at this time of year, it’s not good enough. The situation we’re in, we expect better from ourselves.”
The Bruins remain in third place in the Atlantic Division, 1 point ahead of the Red Wings. The Bruins got a gift from their most hated rivals when the Canadiens rallied from a 3-2 deficit to beat Detroit, 4-3.
The Bruins’ position would have been far more comfortable had they gotten any kind of results in the past two weeks. But their latest loss dropped them to 1-6-0 in their last seven games: a 2-point climb out of a possible 14. They had to fight and scratch and claw their way to that one win in Toronto.
Now they enter unwanted iron: St. Louis and Chicago, both on the road.
“We’ve got to play for our lives, if that’s the case,” Julien said. “It’s our own fault if we make it harder on ourselves all the time. You can only do so much. I thought we had a good game plan, obviously, when you look at the way the game went. The game plan was good. The parts we can’t help them with is the finishing part. That’s what we’ve got to get better at.”
Brad Marchand scored his team’s only goal at 4:28 of the second. Zdeno Chara’s pass was behind Marchand. But the left wing reached back for the puck, pulled it onto his blade, and squirted between Andy Greene and Adam Larsson. After dusting the defensemen, Marchand brought the puck to his backhand and roofed a shot over Kinkaid.
Nothing else came close. The Bruins went 0 for 2 on the power play, managing only three shots on net. At the other end, the Devils scored on two of their five man-up opportunities. At 16:59 of the first, with Patrice Bergeron serving a high-sticking penalty, Travis Zajac received a pass from Reid Boucher and snapped the puck over Tuukka Rask.
In the third, with Chara off for boarding, Zajac and Boucher switched roles. Zajac set up Boucher for the winning power-play strike at 4:05.
“I thought we had a really good game tonight,” Marchand said. “I thought we outplayed them a lot of the game. We just didn’t capitalize on our opportunities. If we play like that every game, we’re going to win a lot more than we lose.”
The trouble is that the Bruins, with just five games left, are running out of time.