Boston was playing the kind of disciplined and system oriented hockey that is necessary to compete with the New Jersey Devils and their defense-first style, but with 4:12 remaining in the second period, Tim Thomas
made his best save of the season to keep the score tied at 0-0 going into the second break.
“[Jamie] Langenbrunner made a good shot for a rebound and I was trying not to put it to him, but there wasn’t much I could do to handle it and it went right on [Patrik Elias’] stick,” said Thomas. “It was just reflex and a little bit of luck.”
Fair enough, but Thomas still had to dive to his right and put his goal paddle down flat on the ice to stop the what-should-have-been a New Jersey go-ahead goal and then cover up the rebound.
Boston’s goalie couldn’t elaborate on his thinking and movements in that moment, and said, “I remember that play, and I remember the puck and what happened outside of me, but I don’t remember exactly what I did.”
What he did was give Zdeno Chara
and Milan Lucic
a chance to put the Bruins ahead just 49-seconds into the third after New Jersey’s Bobby Holik was called for interference at :40.
“You know, I had a few chances tonight and I was putting pucks on the net and sometimes [Devils goalie Scott Clemmensen] got lucky because it hit him and he just had a nice clear lane to see it,” said Chara. “Eventually on that power play I just fired [the puck].
“I think I broke somebody’s stick and the rebound came to Luch and he put it in.”
Like Thomas, Lucic attributed his special play to some luck.
“I think we did a good job on the [power play] to keep the puck in the zone and Zee just tried to get the puck on net,” said Lucic. “It was a lucky bounce for us.
“It landed on my stick and I tried to get [the shot] off as quickly as I could and it found the five hole.”
Listening closely, however, it was pretty clear that it was not just luck that gave the Bruins the win.
“I think today was the tightest game we’ve played all season and it was our toughest challenge of the season and I think we handled it well, sticking with it,” said Lucic. “We didn’t have many breakdowns and that’s what it all came down to today – which team was going to break down first and we got that one lucky bounce
“And we did a good job protecting the lead and getting that insurance goal [by David Krejci
] in the net.”
Thomas said the Devils used their patented methods against the Bruins.
“They’ve been getting a lot more offensive this year,” said Thomas. “So, I didn’t know if it was going to go exactly by the book – the prototypical [Devils] game.
“But that’s the way it turned out.”
Either way, Thomas didn’t think that would be a problem for the Bruins.
“There are a lot of different teams in the league and some teams are going to force you to play a different style of game, like New Jersey does,” said the B’s goalie. “They just don’t give you much, offensively, and the key on that is to be patient and play good defense yourself.
“We certainly did a good job of that tonight and they helped me out big time when they helped me get rebounds and stuff like that.”
Chara concurred and pointed out that it was the Bruins own systems that carried the day.
“After 40-minutes, it was 0-0 and New Jersey is so well-structured and very disciplined, system-wise,” said the Bruins captain. “They are just waiting for you to make a mistake.
“Timmy was making some big, big saves for us and everybody really played responsibly and we didn’t break down and try and do too much…we stuck with it and eventually we got the break on the power play.
We scored the first goal and, obviously, they had to take some chances and we scored another,” he said.
Chara pointed to the hard work displayed by all the Bruins.
“It was a great team effort, tonight,” he said. “I though that we played a really well-structured game and that we were really kind of patient with the style that we played.”
Going into the NHL’s holiday break (with no games on December 24th and 25th) Bruins head coach Claude Julien was simply pleased with his team's effort.
“It was a real good test and a good game for us tonight,” said Julien. “It was one of those games where you have to be really patient and strong on the puck and minimize your mistakes – because that’s what they thrive on.
“And we had to make sure we’re strong on the puck
“I thought our guys did a great job,” he said.
Thomas, who had given up five goals in his last outing, might have had the best description of the night, when he said his teammates, and defensemen specifically, had given him “a pretty good Christmas present” by minimizing New Jersey’s chances at his goal.
That’s because there’s no doubt most of New England’s hockey fans agree and are pleased to have another “W” under the tree.Boston returns to practice on Friday.