NEWARK, N.J. -- Boston coach Claude Julien wanted to see more life, more jump, more energy, more everything from his hockey club Thursday night. He felt they hadn't been giving enough of themselves over the previous 10 games, and especially in the last two -- a lackluster shootout win over Florida and a well-deserved loss to Tampa Bay.
Julien had to watch two more lifeless periods Thursday night, but the Bruins finally delivered the goods in the third.
Boston scored three times within the first 7:45 of the final period to not only take the lead, but provide some insurance for a 4-1 victory at Prudential Center. Tim Thomas made 30 saves for his 19th win of the season while Martin Brodeur, who faced only 12 shots through two periods, was burned three times on 12 shots in the third to suffer his 11th loss of the season, and second in the last 15 days to Boston.
The Devils also lost 6-1 to the Bruins at Prudential Center on Jan. 4. Boston was 4-3-0 since that win -- good, but clearly below average for this team.
"It was kind of 'enough is enough,'" said Boston forward Shawn Thornton, who had two assists and was the game's first star. "A lot of it, too, is not getting frustrated. In the past when we have gone through things like this we've had the tendency to get frustrated and spend a little too much time in the box. We did a good job of sticking with the program and using that frustration, funneling it the right way."
Thornton wouldn't give away the player, but he did say someone in the Bruins' dressing room stepped up between the second and third periods and delivered one of those, "We're better than this" speeches.
Andrew Ference started the Bruins off 3:01 into the third period with a far side slap shot through a screen from the left circle to tie the game at 1-1. Thornton delivered a backhanded pass toward Ference, who played the puck off the boards before firing.
Nathan Horton finished off some nifty passing by Ference, Rich Peverley and David Krejci to score a power-play goal at 7:10 and give Boston a 2-1 lead. The goal was initially awarded to Milan Lucic, who was in front of the net along with Horton.
Thirty-five seconds later, Gregory Campbell capped a hard shift with fellow fourth-liners Thornton and Daniel Paille to give the Bruins their 3-1 lead. He scored from the slot off a rebound of Thornton's shot.
Campbell's goal gave him his first career Gordie Howe hat trick. He also had an assist on Ference's goal and a fight with Devils forward Brad Mills in the first period.
"It feels good only for the fact that it was a 4-1 game and the goal and the assist came at times when we needed it," Campbell told NHL.com of the Gordie Howe hat trick. "Sometimes you get a Gordie Howe hat trick, a goal or a fight and it doesn't ultimately have an effect on the team. Tonight I was hoping to provide some energy and the goal came at a good time."
Chris Kelly hit the empty net to wrap up the win, which moved the Bruins within a point of the Rangers for the Eastern Conference lead. New York comes to TD Garden on Saturday afternoon.
Less than a minute before Ference scored, Brodeur preserved the Devils' 1-0 lead by robbing Benoit Pouliot with a diving glove save. He initially stopped Ference's shot with his pads and then stoned Pouliot on the rebound.
However, instead of getting frustrated and looking to the sky for answers, the Bruins answered with a surge.
"For some teams it would have maybe deflated them, for us it was, 'We're starting to get some opportunities here guys,'" Julien said. "That's where our confidence comes into play. When you start getting opportunities like that, because we hadn't in the first two periods, it just kind of gave us a sign that things were coming. We just built from that."
The Devils had opportunities to build on their 1-0 lead in the second period, but never could. Rookie forward Steve Zalewski was inches away from scoring his first NHL goal, but his shot rang off the post with 8:40 to play. Shortly before intermission, Thomas robbed David Clarkson with a picture-perfect reactionary glove save.
Just over a minute before the Bruins started their onslaught in the third, Devils defenseman Mark Fayne rang a shot from the right point off the left post.
"We showed up and did a lot of good things, but that doesn't get you points in the standings," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "But, I thought we responded well to the challenge of playing the Stanley Cup champions."
New Jersey was outshooting the Bruins 23-12 through two periods despite losing 24 of 41 faceoffs. Sykora gave them the lead with 1:31 left in the first period. It came less than four minutes after Campbell and Mills dropped the gloves in an attempt to get spark some momentum for each of their teams.
For the time being the Devils grabbed it and dominated. The Bruins stole it back and took the two points home with them thanks to their quick surge in the third.
"It was a little bit of a lackluster effort on our part in the first two periods, and this team is smart enough and experienced enough to know we weren't playing our game," Campbell said. "Give credit where credit is due, they're a tough team to play against and they came out hard and with a game plan. Our game plan was to try to get the lead. We didn't do that, but to our credit we battled back."