By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask made four game-saving stops in the five-minute overtime, and then followed that up with another three before Brad Marchand sealed the deal on a 3-2 shootout win over the Devils to kick the Bruins’ 56-game 2021 season off with a win at the Prudential Center.
Working his way back from a sports hernia repair procedure after spending the last two years at 80 percent, it was Marchand who put the Bruins on the board for the first time in 2021 long before that walkoff with a power-play net-front finish at the 17:40 mark of the first period.
Sparked by a beautiful feed from David Krejci, Marchand’s goal on the Devils’ Mackenzie Blackwood continued what was a strong run from the first unit with Krejci in David Pastrnak’s spot, first discovered in the Toronto bubble last summer.
The score held through two periods, too, and thanks in large part to a fantastic stop by Rask against New Jersey’s Pavel Zacha with just five seconds remaining in the frame.
Tuukka Rask with his first MASSIVE save of 2021: pic.twitter.com/kE8JHptIsU— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) January 15, 2021
In what felt like the most lopsided 1-0 game imaginable, trouble came the Bruins’ way with a series of self-inflicted blunders that opened up a lane for the Devils’ Miles Wood and the game-tying goal.
With Jake DeBrusk out there entirely too long, and with Kevan Miller pinched up into the offensive zone, a Sean Kuraly turnover in the neutral zone sent Wood flying in for a top-shelf finish at the 8:51 mark of the third.
The Bruins jumped back out in front on a Nick Ritchie power-play goal, scored off a Marchand feed, with just under seven minutes remaining in regulation. It actually marked the second Opening Night in a row with a B’s goal from a Ritchie Brother, as it was Brett Ritchie who scored in Boston’s 2019 Opening Night win in Dallas.
Well, at least Nick Ritchie scored. pic.twitter.com/cSIgkYucJO— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 15, 2021
But the lead would last just 34 seconds, with a Ty Smith look playing pinball off what appeared to be three different bodies in front of Rask before bouncing over the 33-year-old netminder for a 2-2 game.
Rask finished his night with 20 saves, including those aforementioned stone-cold stops in the overtime, headlined by a stop on what was a full-ice Kyle Palmieri breakaway, for his first win of the season.
The Bruins also won the special teams battle, as their power play converted on two of their five opportunities while the kill came through with five kills on as many trips to the box.
This was also good for the first shootout win for the Bruins since Feb. 20, 2019. David Backes had the winner in that one, while the Bruins suffered eight shootout losses between shootout victories.
Free agent addition Craig Smith missed this contest due to a lower-body injury the 31-year-old tweaked earlier this week and after the ailment didn’t get any better when Smith woke up on Thursday morning.
The Bruins will remain in New Jersey for a 1 p.m. rematch on Saturday.
Listen to Ty Anderson and Matt Dolloff preview the 2020-21 Bruins season in the newest episode of the SideLines podcast.