The Bruins squandered a third-period lead and fell to the New Jersey Devils, 4-3, in overtime on Tuesday night at the Prudential Center.
Pavel Zacha scored his second of the night on a delayed penalty at 2:42 of the overtime to clinch the win. The Bruins (31-14-7) had locked down a playoff spot with a 3-0 win over the Devils on Monday and were playing for a more favorable seed in the East Division with four games left.
“We had enough leads to put it away but we were not as good as we needed to be,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “In overtime that goal was tough on anybody being four on three in our zone when guys are tired.
“But we need to close out better, plain and simple, and stuff we typically do better we didn’t do tonight.”
The Bruins remained in third place, one point ahead of the New York Islanders, who lost in a shootout to the Sabres. The Bruins return home for three straight games, beginning with the first of two against the New York Rangers on Thursday night at TD Garden.
“I think the feeling for us is get to playing our game, our playoff game going and that’s what we’ve got on Thursday with the Rangers,” said third-line center Sean Kuraly. “We have great expectations for ourselves we know what it takes to win in the playoffs.”
The Bruins failed to secure their first victory of the season against Devils’ goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, who finished with 33 saves. Blackwood entered the game 3-0-2 against Boston with a 1.71 goals against average and a .950 save percentage. Bruins goalie Jaroslav Halak, making his first start since April 3 against Pittsburgh, made 17 saves. The Bruins played the third period without right wing Charlie Coyle, who did not return from the intermission with an undisclosed injury.
“He’s been playing some good hockey and it’s been fun playing with him and Ritchie,” said Kuraly. “Losing him put a kink in it and you’ve got to mix it up.”
The Devils tied the game 2-2 at 9:10 of the third when center Jesper Boqvist gained possession of a juicy rebound and flicked it by Halak for his fourth of the season.
The Bruins regained the lead at 10:48 on a spiffy give-and-go play from David Pastrnak to Kuraly. Pastrnak had Blackwood’s full attention when he closed in from the right circle. Pastrnak faked the shot and fed Kuraly for a redirect.
“I was at the end of a shift and I just saw Pastrnak was on and he was fresh,” said Kuraly. “We gave him the puck and I went to the net because good things happen when he is on the ice.”
The Devils tied the game 3-3 on a goal by Yegor Sharangovich at 12:41. Damon Severson forced a turnover in the neutral zone and fed Sharangovich who beat Halak to the far post for his 16th of the season.
“I think we could have managed the puck a little better in the third period,” said Kuraly. “We were playing a little more to their strength than ours.”
The Bruins were relentless on Blackwood early in the first period, but he got a reprieve when Matt Grzelcyk got lugged for interference. Halak made two big stops on Devils’ sniper Nico Hischier and caught a huge break when Miles Wood hit the post. Halak went back under the gun when Connor Clifton got two minutes for slashing at 6:42.
Charlie McAvoy followed Clifton to the box for tripping and this time it counted. Hischier won the draw to Jack Hughes, who relayed to Zacha at the top of the right circle. Zacha one-timed a slap shot through a screen from the high slot that beat Halak stick side at 8:42 for his 14th of the season.
“Obviously when you have guys in the box who would typically be out there for the penalty kill you are interchanging and not changing as fast as you should,” said Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo, who missed the last 10 games with an abdominal injury.
The Bruins solved the Blackwood enigma and tied the game 1-1 on the power play at 3:26 of the second period. Patrice Bergeron won the draw back to Grzelcyk who sent it across the blue line to Pastrnak. Bergeron settled into the bumper, took a feed from Pastrnak and scored top shelf glove side for his 21st of the season.
Boston went up 2-1 at 14:02 when Taylor Hall made a hard dash down the right side. Devils defenseman Matt Tennyson poked the puck off Hall’s stick, but it went to Grzelcyk in the circle.
Grzelcyk’s slap shot deflected off Hall’s leg as he screened Blackwood with a leap across the crease. Devils coach Lindy Ruff challenged the play citing goalie interference but the goal was upheld.