NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — With six games to go in regular season, the Boston Bruins know the only thing separating them from the playoffs is themselves.
The Bruins moved another step closer to the postseason on Tuesday night, getting a goal from Patrice Bergeron with 18.3 seconds left in overtime in a 1-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
The win kept the Bruins two points ahead of Atlanta in the race for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, and Boston has a game in hand.
Montreal, Philadelphia and Boston all have 82 points, but the Canadiens and Flyers have more wins, the first tiebreaker.
“It was a huge effort from everyone,” Bergeron said after the Bruins beat the Devils for the first time this season. “We need it. It’s in our hands. If we worry about ourselves and do the job, we shouldn’t worry about anybody else. We’ve got find a way to get that energy, that effort. We know it’s a tough schedule but no one feels sorry for us.”
The Bruins have two road game left, against the NHL’s top team, the Washington Capitals, and another with the Buffalo Sabres, the leaders of the Northeast Division.
“We’re fighting for our lives right now,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “It’s pretty obvious that those points are huge. That first point gave us something and we really had to work hard to get that second. Look around the league tonight. Teams that are chasing us also won. Every game has to be about desperation.”
Not only did Atlanta win, but so did the New York Rangers, who are four points behind Boston.
The game-winning play started near the Bruins blue line when Ilya Kovalchuck was stopped on a rush.
The Bruins counterattacked and Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur made a save on Bergeron from the right circle. The Bruins chased the puck down and Bergeron eventually sent a pass to the point.
Mark Stuart skated across the blueline, found an opening and sent a shot toward goal that Mark Recchi tipped. Brodeur made his 33rd save on the play but the puck went to the other side of the net and Bergeron deposited into an open net for his 18th goal.
“I thought Bergie scored just before,” Recchi said. “He made a heck of a shot just before that. Stuie made a good play. He held on to it. He was patient. He got himself a lane and I was able to get just enough to redirect it on Marty so he really couldn’t control the rebound.”
“I don’t know how I lost my stick,” Martin said, who also bumped with Kovalchuk.
New Jersey came into the game looking to move into a first-place tie in the Atlantic Division with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The one point it picked up left it a point behind the defending Stanley Cup champions, and both teams have six games to go.
“We’re not playing at the level we need to be at,” Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask stopped 21 shots to pick up his fifth shutout of the season.
Brodeur made the save of the game in the opening minutes of the third period by putting his glove along the goal line to stop a move across the crease by Michael Ryder, who had skated around Devils’ defenseman Andy Greene.
David Clarkson actually beat Rask with a 20-foot straight-on shot with 6:48 to go in regulation, but the puck banged off the crossbar.
“It just nicked my glove,” Rask said. “I don’t think they counted it as a save but I did.”
Brodeur forced the overtime, stopping a 25-foot blast by David Krejci with 3.3 seconds to play.
The Bruins outshot the Devils 22-11 in the first two periods but there were only a handful of good scoring chances. The most memorable one came in the opening minutes when Brodeur was stunned taking a slapshot by Stuart off his facemask.
Fellow Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman had the best scoring chance when his shot from the point hit off Brodeur and lay in the crease for a split second. The Devils goaltender covered the puck seconds before forward Marco Sturm could poke it into the net.
Rask gave the Devils their best scoring opportunity with a giveaway in front in the first period. However, Dean McAmmond appeared to be tripped before he could get to the loose puck and no penalty was called.
NOTES: Devils C Patrik Elias was nominated by the New Jersey chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association for the Masterton Trophy, given to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Elias got a game misconduct from the referees after the game ended. He would not discuss it. … Flyers F Dan Carcillo was suspended two games for a hit on Devils F David Clarkson on Sunday. … New Jersey won the season series 3-1. … Boston is 19-13-6 on the road with a three-game winning streak.