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Gustavsson, Bruins Keep Climbing Standings with 2-1 Shootout Win over Devils

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BOSTON — Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien gave Ryan Spooner some simple advice as he headed out to center ice as Boston’s first shootout contender on Sunday night.

“He said, ‘Have confidence when you’re shooting, just like you do in practice,’” Spooner said. “And I went out there, and that’s the move that I use [in practice], and it worked.”

Spooner’s goal was the only one the Bruins would need in the shootout, and it lifted them to a 2-1 win over the Devils.

Suddenly, the B’s find themselves just a point behind Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division, something Spooner said he wouldn’t have believed was possible one month ago.

But this is not the same team now than it was a month ago.

“If you asked me [if I believed the Bruins are a first-place team] probably a month and a half ago, then I would probably say no,” Spooner said. “But the way that we have been playing, yes. I feel like in the last little bit here, we have really jelled as a team, and we have shown that we can play with all the teams in the league.”

The Bruins have also proven over the last 15 games — during which they have posted a 11-1-3 record — that they have what it takes to win in any situation. They can score six goals if they need to, like they did on Friday night in Pittsburgh. Sunday’s game was a different kind of game, a goaltender’s duel, a war of attrition.

And in the end, the Bruins proved they could win that kind of game, too.

“It’s about being able to win all kinds of games and not get frustrated,” Julien said. “Tonight could have been an easy night to get frustrated because after more or less a period and a half, they had had the better of us, but we stuck with it.

“I think it is more of the maturity of our group that’s helped us to get to where we are right now with understanding what we are — what kind of team we are — and what we need to do to succeed. I think the comprehension of that is getting clearer all the time.”

Loui Eriksson put the Bruins on the board about six minutes into the game, when he took a perfect behind-the-net backhand pass from David Krejci and put it past Devils goalie Cory Schneider from the slot. It marked Eriksson’s second goal in as many games and extended his point streak to three games.

But once the puck dropped in the second, it took less than two minutes for the Devils to tie things up. Lee Stempniak fed Andy Greene coming down the middle, and Greene redirected the puck just out of Jonas Gustavvson’s reach, gloveside.

The Devils pushed in the waning minutes of the first, and in the final two frames, and alternately, the Bruins weren’t as strong as they had been in the first. For much of the final 40 minutes, they had to rely on Gustavsson to come up big with some timely saves and get them into overtime, then, eventually, into the shootout.

“You do not want be the guy that comes in, and everyone’s got to change their game,” Gustavsson said. “[Tuukka’s] been playing lights out lately, so I’ve just got to try to take advantage of every chance that I get to play and basically do whatever I can to help the team get the points because, like I said, that’s what it’s all about: No matter who’s in net, who’s playing, who’s in the lineup, we all believe in each other, and I’ve just got to do my part when I’m called on. So far, so good.”

Gustavsson’s last win came in overtime, on the night before Thanksgiving, when he stole two points for the Bruins against Detroit.

It was only fitting that his next win would come in extra time, too.

“Every win is important, so you try to stay with it,” Gustavsson said. “You’re not happy just because you got one point; you’re trying to keep the same focus and really trying to get that last point, too, because in the end of the season, all of those points are going to be huge. So you’re just trying to stay with it and stay sharp and help the team.”

Spooner scored for Boston in the shootout, while Gustavsson stymied Stempniak, Kyle Palmieri and Mike Cammalleri to seal the victory.

“You go from [being] out of a playoff spot to where we are right now, and it’s exciting; it’s where you want to be,” said forward Landon Ferraro. “It’s still extremely early in the year. There’s a still a lot of games left, and you can’t be satisfied. Teams are just getting better. So we need to make sure that we continue to get better and make sure that we’re pushing ourselves every day.”

There is a long way to go this season. The Bruins have not yet played even half of their games. But the feeling in Boston’s room is changing. They believe in themselves. They have seen over the last month what hard work gets them — and what it gets them is 15 of a possible 20 points thus far in the month of December.

The Bruins’ work isn’t done, but they have the confidence, the belief, to know there is much more they are capable of doing.

“You have to create chemistry off the ice and then kind of click on the ice as well, so it takes some time,” Krejci said. “Over the last 10 games, I thought we were rolling pretty good. We were winning games; even if we lost a game, it was in overtime, or we lost by one goal.

“I thought we have something good going — but we have to keep it up.”

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