Tough-luck Boston Bruins seek elusive victory vs. New Jersey Devils

Mar 28, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Nick Ritchie (21) deflects a shot in front of New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (29) during the third period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Bruins were unusually melancholy, bordering on self-pitying, Sunday night.

But then again, it’s not every night a team has one potential game-tying goal waved off and another no-goal call upheld upon review — and all in the final 70 seconds of a one-goal loss.

The Bruins will hope to generate some better puck luck and finally figure out a way to topple the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night, when Boston hosts New Jersey in the final game of a two-game series.

The Devils won the opener Sunday, when Kyle Palmieri scored the game’s lone goal in the first period and Mackenzie Blackwood stopped all 40 shots while withstanding the Bruins’ final-minute flurry to preserve a 1-0 win.

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The loss featured two premature goal celebrations by the Bruins, who first thought they’d tied the game when Patrice Bergeron poked a loose puck into the net with 1:10 left. But the Devils challenged the call, and David Krejci was ruled to have committed goalie interference when he pushed Blackwood’s glove while trying to pry the puck free.

“Immediately when I saw it, it looked to me like he pitchforked (Blackwood) when he basically had the puck covered,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “I said to the other coaches, ‘I’m challenging it for sure.’ You know, I think you can be wrong, you can be right; some of these challenges are really hard. But with the way that my goaltender played, it’s one that you have to challenge.”

Nick Ritchie came within millimeters of tying the score with 8.1 seconds left, when Blackwood lunged and kicked the puck away just as it was about to fully cross the goal line. The Devils subsequently iced the puck, which left a mere 1.1 seconds left once play resumed following a review.

“Not a lot of puck luck for us,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We really, really have to work to score goals and then when we do, they come back.”

The Bruins entered play Monday with the fifth-fewest goals in the NHL — ahead of only the Anaheim Ducks, Devils, Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres, all of which are far out of the playoff race. They have scored two goals or fewer seven times in 12 games this month, plus been blanked three times and twice lost 1-0 at home to the Devils in March. The Devils’ backup goalie, Scott Wedgewood, also had 40 saves on March 7.

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“There are other years where you can outscore some of those calls, but we’re not in that position right now, clearly,” Cassidy said. “Every goal matters to us, so it’s tough when those happen.”

The Devils are nine points behind the Bruins in the race for the final playoff spot in the East Division yet are 4-0-1 against Boston — despite scoring more than two goals in just one of the five games. All the wins have been by one goal. New Jersey is 9-16-3 against the rest of its division foes.

“I think, especially when playing against these guys, we’ve had a recipe that we’ve gotten rewarded for with wins,” Palmieri said. “And I think sometimes, it’s a lot easier for a group to stick with a game plan when you find those rewards.”

–Field Level Media