NEWARK, N.J. - The Devils showed a lot of improvement during their three-game winning streak and four-game point streak (3-0-1) in a mini-series against Philadelphia. But Boston reminded the Devils of how far they still have to go in their development.
The Bruins, who clinched a playoff berth in the East Division, dominated from the opening puck drop on their way to a 3-0 victory against New Jersey Monday night at Prudential Center.
"I thought (the Bruins) brought their A-Game," Devils head coach Lindy Ruff said. "That's probably as good as I've seen a team play right form the start, they're puck movement was crisp, they're getting themselves in a real good position."
Boston was aggressive and attacking early and often. It took until the 8:26 mark of the first period for New Jersey to register a shot, a harmless perimeter attempt from defenseman Connor Carrick. By that point, the Bruins already had put 16 shots on the board.
"They had a push. You could see they were jumping early," Devils goaltender Scott Wedgewood said. "We have to be ready to weather that storm."
When it was all said and done, Boston outshot the Devils, 42-20. New Jersey was outshot, 37-9 after two periods of play. If not for the brilliant goaltending of Wedgewood, this game wouldn't have been close.
"I'm going to give them a lot of credit," Ruff said. "They were clicking, every line. They were winning faceoffs. They had puck possession. I think their speed exposed us a little bit. Our gaps weren't good. We couldn't take enough ice away from them.
"That's probably the best I've seen them play against us."
The Devils managed to keep the Bruins off the board until Nick Ritchie's tally at 9:08 of the second period. Patrice Bergeron would add a goal late in the middle frame. Matt Grzelcyk iced it in the final three minutes of regulation. Goaltender Tuukka Rask made 20 saves for his 52nd career shutout.
Here are some other observations from the game…
* Goaltender Scott Wedgewood, who hadn't started a game since April 20, made perhaps his final appearance of the season, one last chance to make an impression on Devils management and around the league to showcase that he belongs in the NHL.
"I was waiting in the weeds for an opportunity and got one here today, try to make the most of it," Wedgewood said. "With the year coming to an end here it was nice to get on the ice and show what I can do."
If this was indeed his final showing, Wedgewood shined bright. He stopped all 17 shots against in the first period to keep it 0-0 after 20 minutes. He continued to make big saves on quality chances from players like Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall and Jake DeBrusk.
It wouldn't be until the 26th shot against that Wedgewood was finally beat - on a ridiculous one-timer from Ritchie that Wedgewood nearly got a piece of while sliding across his crease.
While the Devils were under an onslaught of shots, it was Wedgewood, who finished the game with 39 saves, that gave his team a fighting chance in the final period to attempt a comeback.
"I thought he had a real good night in goal," Ruff said. "He made several key saves just to allow us to hang around."
* Forward A.J. Greer played his first NHL game in over 26 months (Feb. 23, 2019). He got a rude welcome back hit from Kevan Miller, who drilled Greer in the corner as he made a chip out pass. But credit is due to Greer, who managed to get the puck out of his defensive zone while absorbing the blow.
"That hit in the first period was a clean hit," Greer said. "It was a 50-50 puck and my job was to get it out. I've got to take that hit. I lifted my head up and knew it was coming. It's either I get out of the way and the puck stays in the zone or I chip it out, take that hit.
"I had to do my job and that's what I did."
Greer, 24, made his presence known in the game in the third period when he dropped the gloves with Boston's Connor Clifton. It was his attempt to change the momentum in favor of his team, and a display of what he can do, and what he's willing to do, to stick in the NHL.
* Rookie defenseman Kevin Bahl, playing in just his third-career game, had what will be referred to as a teachable moment. He had the puck at the halfwall in his own zone in the second period. He tried to make a play to beat two Bruins. Instead, he turned it over to DeBrusk, who had a free lane to the Devils net. Luckily, Wedgewood poke-checked the puck away to negate a shot. Bahl will know better for next time to just make the simple play.
Ruff liked a lot of Bahl's play in his second game, but pointed out some structural issues on his breakouts and knowing his outlets. That play was an example of where Bahl needs to be better. And with time, he will be.