The returns of Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Jake Debrusk to the Boston Bruin lineup was spoiled as the NHL's bottom-dwelling New Jersey Devils stormed to a convincing 5-2 victory at the TD Garden on Thursday Night.
Despite controlling a 42 to 33 advantage on the shot total, the Bruins offense were unable to generate high-quality scoring chances for a majority of the night. As a result, rookie netminder Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 40 shots to pick up the first win of his career.
Even though both teams took a three day break for Christmas -- as did the entire NHL -- it seemed like it affected Boston more. New Jersey needed all of 25 seconds before taking control on the scoreboard as Damon Severson notched the game's first goal on a feed by Andy Greene.
However with a closer look, the play opened up on the opposite end when Blake Coleman jousted Brad Marchand in the throat with his stick. Marchand slowly skated to the bench, grimacing in pain, and the slow change allowed Severson just enough space to snap home the marker.
The Bruins holiday hangover was evident early on but the team was also reintegrating Chara and Miller while simultaneously playing without Charlie McAvoy. With all these moving parts on the defensive end, the Devils continued to look to take advantage.
With 4:35 left in the opening period and while on a powerplay chance, Kyle Palmieri fired a shot from outside the right face off circle that proved too hot to handle for Jaroslav Halak for the 2-0 Devils lead.
The Bruins found a rhythm midway through the second period, upping the pace and playing with more physicality. From a puck off the iron by David Pastrnak at the 10:22 mark and up until the closing horn of the period, it felt like momentum had swayed into the Bruins favor -- at least temporarily.
With 4:53 left until the second intermission, Boston halved the deficit. John Moore, skating to the net while toeing the goal line, slid a pass to the front of the opening where the puck was met by the stick of Chris Wagner who cashed in his fourth goal on a one-timer from a knee.
Just like the Christmas break, the second intermission may have done more harm than good for the Bruins building momentum. Despite opening the third with a powerplay, Boston's offense again struggled to manage anything promising. When the man-advantage finished, the Devils again began to take over.
With 15:45 left in the game, Coleman remerged for the Devils, this time finishing an end-to-end effort after blocking the shot of Torey Krug. With the puck trickling in the offensive zone, Coleman won the footrace and pulled a quick deke on Halak to finish the breakaway.
Moments later, Patrice Bergeron gave Bruins fans a hint of excitement when he scored his third goal since returning to the lineup. But this one was really a product of perfect pass from Debrusk as he split two defenders and ricocheted the puck off the skate of Bergeron before it found a way to the top of the Devils net.
The New Jersey Devils scored two more times before it was all said and done. And it was only right the final goal of the game was scored by Coleman as he ripped home an empty-netter for the 5-2 final.
The Bruins look to shake off the tough loss when they take on the Buffalo Sabres on December 29th at 7 P.M.
Photo: (@NHLBruins on Twitter)