BOSTON – One of the tools head coaches have at their disposal to get players to stay in line is ice time.
On Tuesday, Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien put that tool to use and it paid off.
After he was a healthy scratch Saturday night against Buffalo, Bruins forward Benoit Pouliot scored the game-winning goal with 3:01 left in regulation to lift Boston past New Jersey, 4-3, at the TD Garden.
Earlier in a wild five-goal third period by the two teams, Boston winger Brad Marchand bounced back from a six-minute benching in the second period to score a goal just six seconds into the third.
The Bruins have now won six in a row.
"Well, it obviously says a lot about their character," said Julien of the players in question. "Sometimes you don't even have to say much. It's just, you get to a stage where, as they say, actions speak louder than words. And I did chat with Ben the other night and explain to him some of the things we were kind of looking for. And with March I didn't have to say anything. We're at the stage, we've been together long enough, he knows what I wasn't happy with and why he sat. But at the same time, he's a good player for us and he certainly deserves a chance to get back into it. It was nice to see him respond quickly, and he was a much smarter player in the third period."
With Johan Hedberg (33 saves) starting a second straight game in net and Ilya Kovalchuk missing a fifth straight game due to a groin injury, the Devils gave the defending Stanley Cup champs their stiffest test of the streak. The Bruins won the first five by a combined score of 30-10.
"We got away from our game plan," said Devils head coach Pete DeBoer, whose team dropped to 4-1-1 in its last six outings. "They took us off our game plan a little bit and we didn't respond the right way. We didn't win enough faceoffs, we didn't do enough of the little things at the end to win games – that's what good teams do."
The Devils broke a scoreless tie at 10:46 of the second period, when they snapped a 0-for-22 power-play drought on a David Clarkson 5-on-3 goal. New Jersey finished the night 1-for-5 with the man-advantage.
"Yeah, it was nice to get one. It was a 5-on-3. We'll take any power play goals we can get right now to try and get that on track," said DeBoer. "It was nice to get one at a key time at that point in the game."
Clarkson's goal freed Brad Marchand, who had taken a roughing minor away from the puck on Adam Henrique, from the penalty box. The Bruins winger took just one more shift in the period before he sat and watched Pouliot take his spot on the line with Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron.
Chris Kelly's goal at 14:52 tied the score for Boston.
To open the third period, Julien turned to Marchand's line and the speedster put Boston ahead for the first time on the night.
"You just want to bounce back. I didn't want to hang my head," said Marchand, who has four goals in three games. "I wanted to go out and show that I could be better. I think [Julien] was kind of giving me a little pat on the butt that I had to do better in the game. I didn't have a good first couple periods. I wanted to come out in the third and play stronger and try and help the team win."
A wild series ensued, as at 2:08 Nick Palmieri pulled the Devils even. Then Shawn Thornton's first goal of the season gave the Bruins the lead again at 3:40 of the period. Palmieri answered again at 6:56, as he pounced on a loose puck in the slot and beat Tim Thomas (27 saves) with a wrist shot.
Before his two-goal outburst, Palmieri hadn't scored in seven games for the Devils.
"It's no secret that I've been struggling to score lately, so getting a couple goals is definitely nice," said the New Jersey winger. "But the win is the most important thing, so [I'm] still a little bit disappointed that we lost. But you've got to look at the positives as well as the negatives. So I think that we played a pretty good game, and obviously the end result is not what we're looking for, but all in all it was a good game."
The Bruins missed several chances to grab the lead again before Pouliot finally cashed in. Nathan Horton hit the crossbar and missed a couple other point-blank chances. With Kelly jamming in front, Joe Corvo got a shot through to Hedberg who deflected right to Pouliot for the winning goal.
"At the end I felt like coach had a little more confidence in me and put me out there late and I just put the puck on net," said the Bruins forward, who signed as a free agent last summer. "It wasn't a hard shot but it went in anyway, so that's good."