NEWARK, N.J. - A five-day break following their European tour did wonders for the Boston Bruins in their first game back in the States against the New Jersey Devils.
The Bruins, who split their two-game series in Prague, Czech Republic with Phoenix last week, received goals from four different players while goalie Tim Thomas made 31 saves to notch his second straight victory, 4-1 over the struggling Devils (1-4-1) on Saturday at Prudential Center.
"This early in the season, we're not looking at this game as 'Let's beat New Jersey,' " said Thomas, who has now made 60 saves on 61 shots over two games. "We came in 14th in the (Eastern) Conference so our goal is to just work our way up the standings … it didn't matter who we played tonight.
"When we got back (from Europe), we had a few days off and I think that helped us to rest up and helped us in the long run. We needed to get our legs going in that first period but that'd be the same if we were in North America the whole time. I know those trips to Europe can be tough and depending on the schedule, it could be really hard on teams. But I think the way the schedule worked out for us has been good."
Particularly when Thomas stopped all 11 shots in a scoreless first period.
After spotting the Devils a 1-0 edge 3:45 into the second when Dainius Zubrus roofed a rebound just outside the right post, the Bruins (2-1-0) connected for four straight. Rookie Jordan Caron got it started when he knocked a rebound past Martin Brodeur 1:37 later for his first NHL goal.
"He scored a typical Jordan Caron goal -- all about overpowering while doing a good job standing in front of the net where he's really good at," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Some guys have a knack for finding those loose pucks and he's pretty good at it."
Michael Ryder then delivered the go-ahead goal at 10:44 off a picturesque feed from rookie Tyler Seguin, Boston's first-round pick (No. 2) last June. Seguin, who now has 1 goal and 1 assist in three games, fed Ryder at the Devils' blue line and the veteran blasted a shot into the top right corner. Shawn Thornton extended the lead to 3-1 at 16:43 on a wicked wrist shot from the right circle that beat Brodeur to the long side before Milan Lucic closed out the scoring with his second of the season at 18:09 to make it 4-1.
Julien was extremely proud of the fact all four lines chipped in on the scoreboard while 11 different players notched at least one point.
"It's fun for the whole team to see every line contribute and this is probably the first time I saw our team generate the most offense in this building," Julien said. "To score four goals and still have quite a bit of quality chances as well. We had some rust in the first, which is normal when you haven't played in a week, but we just wanted to get better as the game went on."
In the opening period, the Devils seemed to pick up where they left off after taking 43 shots on Friday in a loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Thomas was called upon regularly, and was especially sharp with 2:19 remaining when rookie Matt Taormina ripped a screened shot from the point and Jason Arnott jammed at the rebound that Thomas denied while sprawled on the ice.
"There were a lot of shots from the point that I didn't see clearly, or I saw it and lost it through traffic," Thomas said. "It would hit me or get tipped at the last minute. I had a hard time controlling rebounds because of the traffic and because of the tips, but my defense really did a good job of clearing those rebounds."
Thomas' best save of the night, however, was on Kovalchuk 34 seconds into the second. Patrik Elias broke down his left wing off a turnover and fed Kovalchuk barreling down the slot. The big Russian went one-on-one with Thomas but his backhand was denied by the veteran goalie's right skate at the last second.
"I saw the turnover and the play developing," Thomas said. "I was trying to respect (Elias') shot but when he passed it over to Kovy, it was kind of like 'uh oh.' He made a move and, just by pure reaction, I was fortunate to get a toe on it."
The Bruins also shut the door on a Devils' two-man advantage late in the first period when Blake Wheeler was whistled for holding at 18:02 and Brad Marchand for kneeing at 18:42. The Devils, who entered the game 17th in the NHL with a 15.4 percent power-play efficiency (2-for-13) generated just one shot on the opportunity -- a Jamie Langenbrunner slapper from the point that Thomas turned aside.
"That 5-on-3 could have been turning point," Julien said. "The guys did a good job and Kovy and Arnott have good shots from the point. We got the save and did a good job and it kind of gave us momentum heading into the second."
Thomas, who notched his 18th career shutout on 29 saves in a 3-0 victory over Phoenix on Oct. 10 in Prague, improved to 5-5-3 all-time against the Devils.
The struggling Devils, considered strong contenders to repeat as Atlantic Division champions to start the season, have scored just eight goals since scoring twice in the first 7:13 of the season opener against Dallas. The team connected for one goal on 31 shots on Brent Johnson in a 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Monday, scored once on 35 shots in Buffalo against Ryan Miller in a 1-0 overtime win on Wednesday, beat Colorado Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson twice on 43 shots on Friday and could generate one goal on 32 shots against Thomas -- five goals on 141 shots in four games.
Brodeur, who has started every game for the Devils, finished with 31 saves.
"We have to really bear down and start playing Devils hockey," Brodeur said. "Everyone thinks we're all offense, but all offense right now isn't working. We have to get it back to playing a solid defensive agme, and I think we'll get more opportunities. I think the past is a good thing to look at because when we had solid defensive teams, we usually had really good offensive teams. So we have to get back to playing real smart hockey."
1 - 0 NJD
1 - 1 Tie