Entering Sunday night’s tilt, both the Bruins and Devils had little time to dwell on their setbacks to the Sabres and Blue Jackets, respectively. Both teams had nights to forget as the B’s fell flat in a 4-2 loss to the lowly Sabres at TD Garden while the Devils suffered a 6-1 shellacking in Columbus.
It wasn’t exactly the finest form of hockey Sunday night, but the Bruins found a way to win ugly against the ice-cold Devils, who have now dropped four straight.
Here is what we learned as the Bruins earned a wild 5-3 victory at Newark’s Prudential Center.
They don’t give style points for scoring goals, just as long as you find a way to put the puck in the back of the net. Well, in this instance, crossing the goal line was all that mattered for Torey Krug and Tim Schaller.
Krug was the first beneficiary as he threw a puck in front of the net that deflected off 2017 top overall pick Nico Hischier for his first career shorthanded goal at 13:32 of the first. Exactly 6:25 later, Schaller answered Miles Wood’s breakaway equalizer when he tucked a wrap-around attempt just past Eddie Lack to give the B’s the 2-1 advantage heading into the first intermission.
“Just lucky,” Krug said about the sequence leading up to his first of two goals on the evening. “I was trying to give [David] Krejci a good pass to have a chance to score a goal and their D made a good play to stop the pass, but I got a lucky bounce from [Hischier] to go in under [the goaltender’s] pads. So I was just trying to be active, and make plays.”
“Luckily they don’t ask how, right?” Schaller said about his second shorthanded goal of the season. “And luckily it just slid across the goal line a little bit.”
The Bruins weren’t exactly sharp but they got the bounces when they needed it.
Between New Jersey’s odd-man rushes, sustained zone time and Travis Zajac’s first-period penalty shot, Khudobin had to bail out the Bruins more often than not. Boston’s backup was up to the task stopping 35 of 38 shots in a dazzling performance.
Khudobin isn’t the most sound positional goaltender, but he makes up for it with his mobility and aggressiveness. The Bruins needed that from their backup, and that’s exactly what they got against a Devils squad that’s in the thick of the Eastern Conference wild-card picture.
“It’s always feeling good when you’re winning, right?” Khudobin said after improving to 12-3-4 on the year. “They were desperate too. They lost last night and we lost last night, so I was kind of expecting that…and luckily I got a couple of saves that we needed.”
If it weren’t for Khudobin spelling Tuukka Rask with four straight quality performances in late-November, the Bruins may still be looking for a backup goaltender. Even with Rask taking back the top spot, Khudobin hasn’t missed a beat, particularly in the last six games where he is 4-1-1 along with 1.99 GAA and .929 SV%.
Adam McQuaid gets final bounce to cap off his solid night
On a night where the top two lines were struggling to get any traction — sans Brad Marchand taking a Damon Severson hit to send Patrice Bergeron all alone for the clinching empty-net goal — the Bruins needed all hands on deck.
Three of their goals came from defensemen with the first two tallies going to Krug. McQuaid, an unlikely option, provided the third — and most important — ‘D’ goal.
Pinching in right on the blue-line to keep the puck in the attacking end, McQuaid’s knucklepuck found its way past Lack to put the Bruins ahead for good with 9:55 left in regulation.
“I’m trying to be a little more involved offensively,” the stay-at-home McQuaid said about becoming more active in the offensive end. “You know when the opportunities are there to keep plays alive and to make the right reads, but still [I’m] trying not to give up odd-man rushes or get too risky, I guess. It’s a work in progress, but you know at the same time it’s just trying to continue to work at it.”
His ill-advised pinch attempt against the Sabres put the Bruins at a 3-1 disadvantage 24 hours ago. On a night where he was actively throwing his weight around on both ends of the ice — resulting in a game-high four hits — McQuaid’s timely pinch resulted in his first goal since Feb. 9, 2017. More importantly, it led to a bounce-back win for the Black and Gold.
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