Boston passed its first major test of endurance on Tuesday night as it rallied to tie the Devils, 1-1, late in the third period and survived a back-and-forth overtime before prevailing, 2-1, in a lengthy (six rounds) shootout at TD Garden.
Nathan Horton tied it with 4:05 left in the third period and Brad Marchand had the deciding goal in the shootout. The Bruins (5-0-1) and Devils (3-0-2) remain the only teams in the Eastern Conference that have yet to lose in regulation so far this season.
Tuukka Rask (4-0-1) got the start after sitting on Monday night and he was sharp while most of his teammates looked, understandably, a little tired during their first back-to-back (of seven) in 2013. Boston’s penalty kill which was off to a superb start finally allowed a goal (after going 24 for 24) as David Clarkson tipped in a Marek Zidlicky shot at 8:30 in the second period for a 1-0 Devils lead.
Other than Shawn Thornton squaring off with Krystofer Barch in the first period, the B’s lacked their normal jump. That is until their top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Horton clicked in crunch time. Johan Hedberg (27 saves) nearly left Boston with a surprising shutout as future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur received his first game off. Lucic, Krejci and Horton tied it on a rush from center ice that ended with Krejci dishing to Horton who slid it low past Hedberg.
It was the third time in six games this season that the Bruins have gone to overtime (2-0-1) and second shootout (2-0). Boston has points in all six games, equaling their best start since 1970-71 (5-0-1). Overtime felt like a playoff game since there were very few whistles and both teams traded chances. Tyler Seguin scored twice in the shootout to start things off because some joker threw a cup on the ice during his first attempt. Ilya Kovalchuk matched it right away before four players from both squads couldn’t find the back of the net. Finally, Marchand slipped one past Hedberg and Rask (25 saves) stopped Marek Zidlicky on the last shot.
The Bruins will need to get some more rest since this week doesn’t ease up: they host the Sabres (2-3-1) on Thursday (7 p.m., NESN) before traveling to Toronto (3-3-0) on Saturday, their first meetings with Northeast Division rivals. It also serves as their first three-games-in-four-days stretch.