(Photo Credit: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

After snapping a four-game losing streak on Wednesday night, the Boston Bruins hoped to continue trending upwards against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday in their quest to reclaim the top of the Eastern Conference. Falling to an early 2-0 lead in the opening minutes of the second period, it appeared the Bruins returned to their recent struggles that left them hobbling into the Holiday break. However, a second-period eruption resulting in four goals in 11:39 propelled the Black and Gold to a 5-2 victory, rocking the TD Garden for the final time in 2023.

In an action-packed night at the Garden, Georgii Merkulov made his highly anticipated National Hockey League debut, Jake DeBrusk emerged from an 11-game goal drought, and Kevin Shattenkirk scored his 100th career goal to stun the Devils in a dominant second-period effort. The Bruins improved to 21-7-6 as nine players collected a point in a rounded offensive effort from the B’s. Head coach Jim Montgomery liked his team’s response to New Jersey’s early push.

“I loved the response of the bench,” he said following the win. “We felt we were playing a good game (and) we felt we were playing to our identity (and) we felt we were playing Bruins hockey. And that played itself out. Players were competing, and I thought we were physical tonight.”

The Devils scored their first goal at 6:03 of the first period due to the NHL’s second-best power play at 29.9%. New Jersey overloaded the left side of the ice, converting a textbook touch pass goal from Tyler Toffoli to Nico Hischier. New Jersey built on their lead just 1:11 into the second frame when Luke Hughes used Charlie McAvoy as a moving screen to unleash a quick wrist shot over Linus Ullmark’s glove. Despite early offensive struggles, the Bruins were generating scoring opportunities, kick-started by a fourth line of John Beecher, Danton Heinen, and Jakub Lauko.

“It started in the last eight minutes of the first,” Montgomery said of the momentum shift. “We really started getting to our game, and I thought the Beecher line started it off, and then Merkulov’s line followed it up.”

The Bruins finally broke through, and the floodgates opened. DeBrusk started the flurry, climbing out of an 11-game goal skid to pot his first goal since November 30th. Brad Marchand pressured Vitek Vanacek behind the net, causing a turnover and feeding DeBrusk for the deke and score. For DeBrusk, it was about hitting the reset button over the Holiday break.

“It was nice to have a reset honestly in the break and kind of just take some time away from the game and enjoy some Christmas spirits and come back with a new fresh (start),” DeBrusk said on his two-point performance.

After DeBrusk got Boston on the board, David Pastrnak took over, scoring a pair of goals in under three minutes to give Boston a 3-2 lead. At the 7:09 mark of the second, Brandon Carlo fired a puck on Vanecek, where Pastrnak cleaned up the rebound for the tap-in score. He followed it up with a slick deke to the backhand from a feed from DeBrusk on the power play.

“He challenged me on the shot,” Pastrnak said of his second goal. “I think he went forward because initially, I was thinking about shooting high glove. I had a quick look and I had a lot of speed, so it’s hard for a goaltender to follow me all the way to the far post.”

Shattenkirk added two goals of his own, including his 100th career NHL tally at 17:14 of the second period before icing the game in the final minutes on the power play. After going without a goal in his first 17 games this season, the veteran blueliner has increased his total to four in an increased presence in the Bruins offense.

“He’s gained a lot of confidence in how we want to play, and you can see his brain as he leads,” said Montgomery. “It allows him to get into advantageous spots, and that’s what we’re seeing a difference in him now.”

Game Notes

  • Merkulov posted 15:08 of ice time in his NHL debut but was held out of the majority of the third period while holding a two-goal lead.
  • Ullmark made 33 saves after surrendering two early goals to protect Boston’s lead, including a handful of important stops down the stretch of the third period.
  • It’s the first time the Bruins have won consecutive games since a three game win streak that ended on December 3rd.
  • The Bruins return to the ice tomorrow night for a matchup with the Detroit Red Wings. Puck drop is scheduled for 5 p.m.