In ghastly effort, Bruins bedeviled
If the NHL All-Star Game leaves something to be desired - and it does - then last night's Bruins-Devils game took that desire and turned it into 61 minutes 11 seconds of grinding, choppy, and sometimes weird hockey that actually made the All-Star Game look almost palatable.
The Devils, masters of defensive torture and checking in all its permutations, finally won, 4-3, on Jamie Langenbrunner's goal 1:11 into overtime, snapping the Bruins' winning streak at two games and dropping their impressive home record to 18-3-3.
Parked in front of the crease, the long-armed Langenbrunner reached to his right and swept home a rebound of Colin White's slapper above the left circle, thus ending a night that contained a string of strange, almost macabre goals.
Langenbrunner's first of the night, for the 1-0 lead, came compliments of a side-of-the-crease backward kick by Bruins center Marc Savard. Zach Parise made it 2-0 in the second when his centering pass from behind the net angled in off the back of Tim Thomas. Chuck Kobasew scored the first of three straight for the Bruins, but it was actually Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador who shot it into the net, failing to clear it from the crease after Kobasew was knocked to the ice by Andy Greene. Later in the third period, with 1:45 left, Patrik Elias knocked home the equalizer when a Brian Gionta relay off the left side banked in off the streaking forward's left shin pad.
"It was a battle of who was going to score the most goals on themselves," said Thomas.
That about says it. Flow? Forget it. Style? C'mon. The Devils, who have parlayed defensive grit and determination into three Stanley Cups, don't abide flow. Whenever they can't throttle their opponent in the neutral zone, they scurry like mad dogs to try again, again, and again on the backcheck. They hit. They gnaw. They frustrate. And when they crack the offensive zone, whatever they lack in finesse, they make up for in crowding the crease rugby-style and smacking away with the hope that something eventually gets across the goal line.
"You know, we can lick our wounds and think they were unfortunate goals," mused Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward. "But you know, they all count. We have to score some of those goals. That's a third-effort team. They're very resilient. And when you get in there, you don't have a lot of time because their backcheck is always there."
Despite a very sloppy second period in which they were outshot, 13-5, the Bruins hung in there. Langenbrunner's first goal was shorthanded, moments after Patrice Bergeron bollixed a shot from the point at the other end. Parise's strike came on a power play with Phil Kessel in the box for a slash, Parise actually hoping to connect with a teammate on his dish from behind the right post. He connected with Thomas's back. Goal.
"That's hockey," said Thomas, who made 26 saves. "You don't usually see three goals with that many bad bounces involved. You see one in every four or five games, usually. But considering how the goals went in . . . what are you going to do?"
Boston's short-lived comeback began at 2:19 of the third, with Kobasew ready to pot a Bergeron relay at the left post. But Kobasew was flattened by Greene as he shot, and it was Salvador who pushed it over the line. The refereeing crew of Wes McCauley and Tom Kowal had to have it approved by the video crew.
Savard was back for the equalizer, 2-2, at 7:11, shoveling one off the doorstep to Scott Clemmensen's right. The ex-Boston College goalie appeared to have the near post covered, but Savard's shot angled in off his right pad. Kessel, who set up the goal, also made the dish to the high slot at 13:30 that Dennis Wideman drove in with a one-time slapper, one of the few clear shots of the night.
"That's how it is when we play them," said Wideman, noting that clear shooting lanes are few. "But we knew that going in. We have to get in those same dirty areas and score those dirty goals."
All in all, said Wideman, the 3-2 lead should have been cashed in for the win.
"At this stage of the season, to be down to the final two minutes with a one-goal lead, we have to close it," he said.
Such are the lessons to remember for April, especially if their playoff opponents are the second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-effort Devils.