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Bruins’ Fourth Line Carries Team Past Devils

Gregory Campbell takes the shot against New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur during Thursday's game at the Prudential Center in Newark. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Good things come to those who wait. The Boston Bruins waited five games to get back Brad Marchand. They waited two games to get back Rich Peverley. And they waited 63 minutes Thursday night before finally solving the New Jersey Devils’ stout defense and even more stout goalie, Martin Brodeur.

Once the waiting period ended, however, the Bruins’ offense kicked it into overdrive, scoring twice in 35 seconds to help the Bruins to a 4-1 road victory over the Devils. The fourth line combination of Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell combined for a goal and four assists during the Bruins’ four-goal third period.

Bruins’ Offense Dominates Third

The Bruins played lazy, sluggish hockey for the first 40 minutes of Thursday’s game, turning the puck over, losing one-on-one battles along the boards, and missing their meager 12 shots at Brodeur.

Perhaps heartened by just a 1-0 deficit entering the third period, the Bruins came out on fire, putting three shots on goal in the opening minutes while displaying far superior puck-management.

The simultaneously more disciplined and intense offense paid off at 3:01, when Thornton sent a crossing pass towards Andrew Ference just behind the Devils’ left circle. Ference let the puck bounce off the boards, then rocketed a slapshot just under the top-right corner of the goal to tie the game 1-1. Campbell also earned an assist on the goal.

No longer playing from behind, the Bruins ramped their up their attack even further following Ference’s third goal of the season. They fired off three more shots in the next minute, completely unbalancing the Devils’ sturdy defenders. The Devils’ inability to control the puck on defense upset their previously strong neutral zone play, and right winger David Clarkson hooked Ference by the Bruins’ blue line.

New Jersey – who entered Thursday’s game with NHL’s best penalty kill – controlled the power play for the first 1:30, but then Boston took over once again. Peverley found David Krejci in the left circle, and Krejci immediately threaded a pass through the crease to Nathan Horton just beyond the right goalpost.

Horton one-timed the pass into the goal before Brodeur could reposition himself for the 2-1 lead at 7:10 in the third.

The Bruins needed just 35 seconds to get their insurance goal, with Paille making an aggressive takeaway in the Devils’ zone following a faceoff. Paille quickly sent the puck from the right circle to an awaiting Thornton in the left, who immediately fired at Brodeur.

Brodeur deflected Thornton’s shot but couldn’t grab it cleanly, and Campbell knocked home the rebound for the 3-1 lead.

The Devils mounted a few attacks following Campbell’s goal, but they couldn’t score again on Tim Thomas. Brodeur was pulled with two minutes left in the game, but the decision came back to haunt them, as Chris Kelly grabbed a takeaway in the Bruins’ zone, took it through the neutral zone and scored the empty netter for a 4-1 lead with 47 seconds left in the game.

Poor Early Puck-Control

The Devils out-played the Bruins through the first two periods of Thursday’s game, especially in the neutral zone. The Devils executed lightning-fast passes between the blue lines, finding open teammates and setting up man-advantages on a regular basis. The Bruins, meanwhile, frequently turned the puck over in the neutral zone, derailing attacks before they could even begin and sending players scampering back up ice to help on defense.

Boston’s defense looked unsettled and out-of-position on numerous sequences early on, leading to a 23-12 shooting advantage for New Jersey through two periods. Even when they cleared the puck back across their blue line, the Bruins usually just turned it over again. But even worse than the five giveaways were the 11 icing calls against the Bruins, seven of which came in the first two periods.

Once such icing call led to the Devils’ only goal. Center Patrick Elias took the puck from Krejci following a faceoff in the Bruins’ zone, then fed the puck up to Dainius Zubrus behind the net. Zubrus won control of the puck, then found Petr Sykora just beyond the crease. Sykora quickly sank the puck for a 1-0 lead with 1:31 left in the first.

The Devils couldn’t score again, however, with Thomas making 31 saves to pick up his 18th win of the season and first in three starts.

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