Newark, NJ—The NJ Devils were one of seven teams that missed the playoffs last season because of the stoppage in March. They were playing their first game since March 10 and it looked like it at first.
Boston left winger Brad Marchand had a goal and an assist, then scored the only goal in the shootout as the Boston Bruins slid past the Devils 3-2 on Thursday night to spoil Lindy Ruff’s debut as Devils coach at the Rock.
NJ Devils Ruff was pleased with the way his young team played against a veteran team after a slow first period. The Bruins outshot the Devils 16-4 in the opening 20 minutes of the contest.
Boston dominated the contest for most of the first two periods only to see their 1-0 and 2-1 leads disappear in the third period with goals by Miles Wood and Ty Smith in his NHL debut .
“We were determined to get back in the game,” said Ruff, who has 19 seasons as an NHL head coach. “If you look at the overtime, we had the better chances to win it in overtime. And I think if we compete that hard and skate as well as we did in the second and third, we’re going to be OK.”
Marchand scored a power-play goal and set up by Nick Ritchie for Boston, who won the Presidents’ Trophy for having the best record in the NHL during the 2019-20 regular season. The Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was on his game, made 20 saves, including two on breakaways in overtime, and had two stops in the tiebreaker.
Marchand gave the Bruins an early 1-0 lead at 17:40 of the first period on a power-play goal.
Wood tied it on a breakaway with 11:09 left in the contest.
Both of the Bruins’ goals were scored on power plays after Wood was penalized for goaltender interference.
”Those two calls on me were extremely selfish,” Wood said. ”I’ll put the blame on me that that shouldn’t happen.”
Mackenzie Blackwood was outstanding around the net, had 35 saves. He also stopped Charlie Coyle and Ondrej Kase in the shootout.
“It’s probably how the rest of the season is going to go; every team is competitive now and any team can win on any night,” Marchand said. “We got a really tough division and it’s going to be a battle every single game.”
Rask denied shootout attempts by Nikita Gusev and Jesper Boqvist. Jack Hughes did not get a shot off.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy thought Rask was excellent.
“I was glad to see him get a win,” Cassidy said. “We don’t score a lot for him in the shootout, so good for Marchand to come through. But I thought he looked in midseason form so to speak, did not look like he was fighting it or not tracking it.”
Rask, who left Boston during the playoffs last season after his daughter became ill, deterred shootout breakaways by Kyle Palmieri and Jack Hughes in OT.
Smith’s goal, which bounced off defenseman Charlie McAvoy, came with 6:14 left in regulation, 34 seconds after Ritchie put the Bruins ahead 2-1.
rallied twice in the third period to tie the game on goals by Wood and Smith but just came up a little short in the shootout.
It was the kind of start that Ritchie was hoping for the Bruins. He is a talented 25-year-old player that scored as many as 14 goals and 31 points in the NHL prior to arriving in Boston. Ritchie has all the tools, the size, strength, and talent level to be a power forward that Boston fans can appreciate if he can put it all together.