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“If It Wasn’t For Bad Luck…” (Devils in These Details; 02.11.18)

Debby Wong/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

 

NEWARK, NJ — After various stops in numerous sporting venues across the world, one could only imagine that a mythical man named Murphy must have made a visit to central New Jersey on this Sunday, bringing a steady, gloomy rain-soaked evening into the city while, indoors, continuing the misery of the New Jersey Devils hockey team in the cruelest of fashions.

Three of the Boston’s five goals, including the game-winner from defenseman Adam McQuaid, came from either fortunate bounces off of New Jersey players into the net or awarded in controversial fashion by the officials as the Bruins defeated the Devils 5-3 at the Prudential Center on Sunday, extending New Jersey’s losing streak to four games. Even more alarming, the Devils, now sitting in one of the two Wild Card spots after residing in the top three of the Metropolitan Division standings for the majority of the season, were the only team in the division not to pick up a single point in the last seven days while every other team picked up at least two to make the league’s most hotly-contested division even tighter.

Even before the actual bounces of the puck started going against New Jersey, it had a gilt-edged opportunity to open the scoring in the first period after Boston’s Patrice Bergeron hooked Travis Zajac on a breakaway while the Devils were shorthanded, with Zajac being awarded a penalty shot. Zajac’s forehand-to-backhand move and shot was saved by Bruins backup goalkeeper Anton Khudobin, keeping the game scoreless and setting in motion the series of unfortunate events for the Devils – and serendipitous events for the Bruins – that would define the game.

On a Devils’ power play later in the first, Bruins defenseman Torrey Krug found himself beneath New Jersey’s goal line and sent a pass to the slot that bounced off of New Jersey center Nico Hischier and through the pads of reserve goalkeeper Eddie Lack to give Boston a 1-0 lead at 13:32 of the period.

New Jersey, as it did three separate times in the game, came back from a goal down to tie the score, as Miles Wood came flying out of the penalty box just in time to possess the puck on a breakaway, beating Khudobin through the legs with a backhand to tie the score just 2:54 after Krug’s goal.

It did not take long for the bad bounces – and sloppy play – to cost the Devils once more as the Bruins retook the lead just three seconds before the first intermission. Lack misplayed a puck he wanted to leave for one of his defenseman behind the net, instead finding the stick of Boston’s Tim Schaller, whose attempt at stuffing the puck under a sprawling Lack seemed to have been stopped by Lack’s glove, but the official closest to the play awarded Schaller and the Bruins a goal. Multiple reviews and angles suggested there was no clear evidence that the puck ever crossed the line, as it was obscured by Lack’s equipment. The goal stood after the lengthy review.

It took the Devils just 31 seconds of second period action to tie the score again, with Taylor Hall notching his 21st of the season off a feed from Hischier.

Just 92 seconds later, Boston was back in front, with a faceoff win by Bergeron leading to, one pass later, a one-timer by Krug that whizzed past Lack to give Boston a 3-2 lead at the 2:03 mark of the second. New Jersey responded once more, as Hall became provider in setting up Kyle Palmieri with his 13th goal of the season at 11:07 to tie the game at 3-3.

That’s how it stayed until just past the midway point of the third, as McQuaid’s hopeful attempt to throw something at the net from the right point bounced off a Devils player and off the ice and eventually found its way past Lack at 11:55 to give Boston a lead it would finally not relinquish.

Though Bergeron scored an empty-netter to close out the scoring, the highlight of that play happened immediately before Bergeron possessed the puck, as Devils defenseman Damon Severson delivered a crunching open-ice hit on Bruins forward Brad Marchand, who recently came back from a five-game suspension after elbowing Devils forward Marcus Johansson in a game at TD Garden on Jan. 23, the hit causing Johansson to suffer a concussion. Players on both teams tussled on the ice right after the hit and Bergeron’s goal as tempers – and New Jersey’s frustrations – boiled over.

Boston’s win marked another successful trip into enemy territory, as the Bruins have now won seven consecutive road games, dating back to a Jan. 7 overtime loss in Pittsburgh against the Penguins.

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