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Devils 1, Bruins 0

Bruins have devil of a time scoring

Clemmensen (31 saves) earns shutout

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / February 14, 2009
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NEWARK - The Bruins put a lot together, did many things well, gave up precious little . . . and left with nothing.

Led by Bryce Salvador's goal, which he scored on a long-range wrister aided by an uncharacteristic Tim Thomas whiff, the New Jersey Devils pinned a 1-0 loss on the Bruins last night, handing Boston a third straight loss, only the second time this season the Bruins have failed to record a win in a span of three games.

Thomas, positioned well after John Madden picked Patrice Bergeron's pocket on a faceoff, figured he had Salvador's shot covered as it came in from just inside the blue line. The puck zipped past Martins Karsums up high, but as Thomas went to make the save, hoping to steer it toward the right boards, the only goal of the night zipped by him with 10:54 gone in the second period.

"I had plenty of time," said Thomas. "I turned my stick to put [the puck] in the corner, but I moved it too fast and just didn't get my stick on it. The easiest shot of the night, one of those that kind of lulls you to sleep . . . all of a sudden, it was just so soft."

In 60 minutes, the Bruins had the greater number of scoring chances, evident in their lopsided shot advantage (31-18). But for every shot they managed to muscle up, Scott Clemmensen had the answer. The ex-Boston College Eagle notched his second consecutive shutout, extending his scoreless streak to 145 minutes 23 seconds. He waited seven seasons to get a bona fide shot in net, and now Clemmensen has a 24-11-1 record, the same number of wins as Thomas (24-7-5).

"I think we played well enough to win, so I don't think we should be hanging our heads," said Bruins coach Claude Julien, his club back in action tonight in Nashville. "[Clemmensen] stopped all the shots, so you have to give him credit."

In many ways, it resembled playoff games the Bruins had with the Devils when the three-time Stanley Cup champions chewed up all customers in their old building at the Meadowlands. Like those teams, the Devils were smart, efficient, nearly perfect in all three zones. True, they were outshot by nearly 2-1, but most of Boston's bids came from long range, and in typical New Jersey style, there wasn't much left in the slot for the Bruins to attempt to convert. Overall, Clemmensen was busy, but not overtaxed, and the crowd of 15,257 at the Prudential Center watched him backstop the club to its 36th win.

"We played solid," said Devils coach Brent Sutter. "We knew it was going to be a tight game. Clemmensen made some big saves when we needed it."

Salvador's strike, his third of the season, came moments after Bergeron and Madden hunkered down in the faceoff dot to Thomas's left. It was Madden who once stripped Joe Thornton on a similar play in the old building in October 2006, and it ended up being Jumbo Joe's last official act in a Boston uniform. Madden won the draw, the Devils hammered home the winning goal, and Thornton was left staring at the rafters. By the time he suited up again, he was a member of the San Jose Sharks.

Bergeron, who split even for the night at the dot (7 for 14), lost the draw and then looked to tie up Madden.

"He's good, he's strong," said Bergeron, who led both sides with seven shots on net, perhaps an indication that his offensive game is perking up. "It was a 1-0 game, and I thought I played well - we just couldn't get the bounce, I guess."

The Bruins are not in a tailspin, but they also aren't picking up points in their customary manner. Last Saturday, they lost to the Flyers, 4-3, in overtime. They played a solid 30 minutes Tuesday against the Sharks, the No. 1 power in the West, then disappeared, 5-2. The effort here was good, but they lacked needed finish. They also went 0 for 2 on the man-advantage, and now have failed to score a power-play goal in seven of their last eight games. Come playoff time, which starts in two months, a dormant power play could be fatal.

"We didn't score goals, and you are not going to win if you don't," said veteran winger P.J. Axelsson. "We played the full 60 minutes, that's good, but I think we needed more traffic at the net. They go for your mistakes, and that's why you don't open up against them, because when you do, it's to their advantage."

With time running out, Milan Lucic made a spinning short-range shot that almost connected, but Clemmensen neatly tucked it among his 31 stops.

"He got a pad on it," said Lucic. "Kind of like that all night. We did a good job at getting the puck on net, but we needed more traffic . . . win the battles, get more people in there, be hungry."

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com.

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