NEWARK, N.J. — The Boston Bruins on Tuesday night dominated the New Jersey Devils in almost every conceivable way a team can dominate hockey game.
The Bruins outshot the Devils 40-15, which included a 16-3 edge in the third period, and had a plethora of odd-man rushes while the Devils could barely get out of their own zone.
Yet when the dust settled, it was the Bruins found themselves on the wrong side of a 2-1 outcome at Prudential Center and left their playoff hopes on slightly less secure footing.
Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid was spitting out rebounds like a rubber wall, but no one the Bruins could get to the loose pucks for a tying goal. Center Travis Zajac scored a power-play goal in the first period and assisted on the winner by left winger Reid Boucher in the third period that sent the Bruins to their sixth regulation loss in seven contests.
“It’s disappointing, frustrating, whatever word you want to use,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We could have put that game away in the first period with the odd-man situations we had. We had three 2-on-1s. We had a breakaway. We had a power play. And nothing to show for it.”
The Bruins (40-29-8) are still in playoff position but it may be only temporary if the losses continue to mount. They hold a one-point lead on the ninth-place Detroit Red Wings, who suffered a 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night. Both teams have five games remaining.
The Philadelphia Flyers hold the final wild-card spot with 87 points and have played two fewer games than the Bruins.
The mood in the Bruins locker room after the game was a mix of frustration and confidence; after all, they more than doubled the Devils’ shot total and dominated the game at even strength. The players preached that while they know they need to be better, they can’t get frustrated with five games remaining.
“It’s finishing,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. “We do have to do a better job on the PK. They scored two goals. The power play needs to be better. Right now, it’s about playing the game and don’t worry so much about squeezing the stick. If it is mental, it’s about finding it within ourselves to get the job done.”
The Devils (37-32-8) kept their faintest of faint playoff hopes alive. They are five points behind the Flyers, who have two games in hand, and Kinkaid was the biggest reason the Devils emerged with two points.
“It was nice that Keith hit some adversity again with Wedgewood coming in and playing well,” Devils coach John Hynes said of Kinkaid making his first start in nearly two weeks after rookie Scott Wedgewood took the reins. “He had to have a response. The response he gave tonight talks about his competitiveness and I think that’s a step in the right direction for him.”
“I think it was real important for the team,” Kinkaid said, referring to the Devils’ 3-2 loss to the Hurricanes on Sunday. “We needed a bounce back from Carolina.”
Zajac put the Devils ahead 1-0 with 3:01 to play in the first period but Bruins left winger Brad Marchand with a breakaway goal, his 35th, at 4:28 of the second period. It appeared as though the Bruins would eventually take over, as they outshot the Devils 13-4 in the second period and 29-7 over the final 40 minutes.
But a boarding penalty by defenseman Zdeno Chara early in the third period led to Boucher’s game-winning goal. The Bruins had a slew of chances to tie the game over the final 15 minutes but could not capitalize on any of them.
“We played well,” Marchand said, “but at some point, you have to be able to score goals. I thought we outplayed them for a lot of the game but didn’t capitalize on opportunities. If we play like that every game, we’re going to win a lot more than we are going to lose.”
NOTES: Bruins RW Lee Stempniak played his first game in New Jersey since he was traded by the Devils to Boston on Feb. 29. Stempniak still ranks fourth for the Devils with 15 goals and 41 points. … The Bruins made D Tyler Randell and D Zach Trotman healthy scratches. … The Bruins signed Yale D Rob O’Gara and Miami (Ohio) C Sean Kuraly to entry-level deals. … Devils G Cory Schneider hopes he can return Thursday after missing 11 games with a knee injury. … Devils G Scott Wedgewood was on the bench for the first time since making his NHL debut on March 20.