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Bruins hold off New Jersey with help from late Ryan Spooner goal

March 5, 2017 GMT

The Bruins knew if they were going to beat the New Jersey Devils last night, they would have to win ugly. Mission accomplished.

They dominated from start to finish, compiling a 40-17 shot advantage, but had to sweat out a 3-2 decision over the clingy Devils at the Garden.

Ryan Spooner gave the Bruins their last lead of the game at 8:18 of the third period. Frank Vatrano caved in Damon Severson behind the net and dished the puck out to new Bruin Drew Stafford in the left circle. Stafford spotted the wide-open Spooner at the ride side of the net, and Spooner lifted the winner past a helpless Cory Schneider.

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The Bruins held a 2-1 lead going into the third, but soon that would disappear.

Brandon Carlo, who had given them the lead late in the second, had his shot blocked and Taylor Hall went on a 2-on-1 with Kyle Palmieri. Hall held on to it just long enough to give Palmieri an easy tap-in goal at 5:51.

Despite the top-to-bottom turnover in the New Jersey organization through the years, the Devils remain a trapping and counter-attacking team that, despite their position well out of the playoff structure, still makes them a tough out.

Before the game, interim coach Bruce Cassidy was determined to have his team play its own game.

“We’re going to still attack. The Devils, if you look at their history, they’ve always played well with a lead. If we can attack, be smart about it, put them on their heels, play with a lead? It’s like every other team,” he said yesterday morning. “The may get away from their game at some. But right now it’s about us, focusing on us playing that brand of hockey. When we have opportunities to go, when we have puck possession, we want to get on offense and attack. That involves them being part of that when applicable. We won’t change that against New Jersey.

“Now, are we going to start throwing pucks though the (neutral zone)? We know their neutral zone structure’s going to be good, so we have to make sure we manage the puck. But I don’t think that’s unique to New Jersey. A lot of teams are that way nowadays. And I’d like to think we are. If teams start turning it over, we’re going to get it and get it down their throat and get it up in hurry.”

And attack the B’s did in the first period. They outshot the Devils 16-5, Peter Cehlarik hitting a post on top of that.

But like Henrik Lundqvist did on Thursday, Schneider frustrated the B’s at every turn. Anton Khudobin made the saves he had to at the other end, and was fortunate on a couple of odd-man rushes that the Devils did not get on net.

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In the second period, the Devils started taking penalties. The Bruins made them pay for it once, and it looked like they would do it twice.

The B’s took the first lead of the game at 7:06 with Hall in the box. Schneider made a nice pad save on a Patrice Bergeron spin-around shot, but David Pastrnak was able to push the rebound out to Torey Krug, who beat Schneider with a shot under the bar.

It appeared they doubled their lead on another power play — with Hall in the box again — at 10:21; Stafford jammed at a loose puck in the crease and pushed it over the line, but Devils coach John Hynes asked for a review for goalie interference. To the surprise of just about everyone in the building, the challenge was upheld.

The goal was taken off the board and the Bruins soon found themselves in a tie game again.

Just after the Hall penalty was up, Krug could not keep a puck in at the left point. Devante Smith-Pelly went off on a breakaway, tucking it between Khudobin’s pads to make it 1-1 at 11:48.

The hosts regained the lead before the period was out. Bergeron attempted a pass for David Backes just inside the blue line, but it was deflected into open ice. Carlo entered the zone with speed on his off side and flipped a backhander toward the net. The puck went off Nick Lappin and past Schneider for Carlo’s sixth of the season and a 2-1 Bruin lead with 1:35 left.

Through two periods, the B’s held a 28-12 shot advantage, but thanks to Schneider, they were far from clear of their opponent.

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