The Boston Bruins may have ended the New Jersey Devils' playoff hopes on Tuesday night.
Zdeno Chara broke a tie midway through the second period and Milan Lucic scored his 30th goal of the season late in the third as the Bruins overcame a slow start and beat the Devils 4-1 at TD Garden.
"The second half of the first (period) we started to pick it up and skate well and started creating a little bit more speed through the neutral zone," Chara said. "And, obviously, the power play was creating a lot of chances."
The Devils, who committed one penalty in their previous two games, were called for five in the first two periods, and the Bruins' struggling power-play unit finally came through. Boston had scored just twice on its previous 34 power-play opportunities entering the game.
"I wish we tried to play a more disciplined game," New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire said, "to see our team versus a really top team in the League."
The Devils fell nine points behind eighth-place Buffalo. Each team has eight games remaining.
New Jersey took a 1-0 lead on Ilya Kovalchuk's 27th goal at 11:05 of the first period. But Shawn Thornton tied it less than six minutes later, and the Bruins went off at the first intermission all even despite having been outshot 16-6.
Boston won for just the second time in eight games after winning seven straight. New Jersey is 1-3 after going 23-3-2 in its previous 28 games.
"We knew the guys felt the pressure of not winning lately," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It could have easily been a situation where everybody starts to panic, everybody starts to yell and it doesn't get any better, but we stayed with it as a group and we found a solution."
Lucic sealed the victory at 16:13 of the final period on a 15-footer from the left circle. Chara started the play with a shot from the right point that goalie Martin Brodeur deflected to his right. Patrice Bergeron came up with the puck and passed to Lucic, whose quick shot beat Brodeur. Lucic is the Bruins' first 30-goal scorer since Phil Kessel scored 36 in 2008-09.
Mark Recchi finished the scoring with an empty-net goal with 40 seconds left.
"They were hungry," Brodeur said. "They really played physical on us, and it paid dividends for them."
The Bruins improved their Northeast Division-leading points total to 90 with 10 games left, including seven at home. Despite their improved play since Lemaire replaced John MacLean as coach on Dec. 23, the Devils have almost no chance to make the playoffs.
The Devils took a 1-0 lead on Kovalchuk's power-play goal. Jacob Josefson passed the puck from behind the net to a wide open Kovalchuk, who fired a 20-footer past Tim Thomas.
That gave the Devils a 14-1 lead in shots and the difference was 16-6 after one period. But Boston became more aggressive in the second period, outshooting New Jersey 17-8.
The Bruins tied it at 15:39 of the first period on Shawn Thornton's career-best ninth goal. Dennis Seidenberg took a rising shot from the right point into a crowd of Thornton and New Jersey's Andy Greene and Anssi Salmela in front of the net. The puck nicked Thornton and went over Brodeur's right shoulder.
Chara gave Boston the lead for good at 8:17 of the second period, just nine seconds after Nick Palmieri was penalized for tripping. The Bruins won the faceoff, Tomas Kaberle got the puck and passed to Lucic, who passed the puck from the right side to the left circle where Chara one-timed it past Brodeur for his 13th goal.
"We can't take as many penalties as we did tonight," Devils forward Brian Rolston said. "I really thought we had a lot of good things going in the first period. They made it 1-1 and we were killing penalties from then on in."