Reid Boucher scored a tiebreaking power-play goal early in the third period, Keith Kinkaid made 39 saves and the Devils kept their faint playoff hopes alive with a 2-1 victory over the struggling Bruins on Tuesday night.
“I think it was real important for the team,” Kinkaid said after the Devils snapped a two-game losing streak. “We needed a bounceback game from Carolina, just to stay in the race. We can only control our games. We just have to hope there are a few losses from other teams. We just have to win our games.”
The Devils moved within five points of Philadelphia and Detroit in the race for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins remained in third place in the Atlantic Division — a playoff spot — despite losing for the sixth time in seven games.
Detroit’s 4-3 loss to Montreal kept the Red Wings from taking over third, leaving them a point behind Boston.
New Jersey, Detroit and Boston all have five games left in the regular season.
“You can look at it any way you want but you have to look at yourselves, and blame yourselves first for this loss,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “You can say you tried, but at this time of year, it’s not good enough. The situation that we are in, we expect better from ourselves.”
The Bruins did everything but win. They outshot the Devils 40-15, but they were done in by penalties. New Jersey went 2 for 5 with the man advantage, with Boucher and Travis Zajac setting up each other for goals.
Boucher got the game-winner just seven seconds after Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was called for boarding Devante Smith-Pelly. Chara objected on his way to the penalty box and his frustration quickly mounted.
The Devils won the faceoff and the puck eventually rolled to Zajac, who found Boucher alone in the right circle for his eighth goal of the season.
“We were desperate, too,” Boucher said. “We’re not out of it by any means. We’re going to try and keep this going and see what happens.”
Brad Marchand scored for the first time in nine games for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask made 13 stops.
“You want to find ways to win and get at it,” Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron said. “You don’t want to start banging on your heads and kind of get frustrated. It’s about getting results and putting your chin up and going out there and finding a way.”
New Jersey had lost five in a row against Boston.
Kinkaid stopped 16 shots in the final 20 minutes, but he saw most of them. The most dangerous chance was a rebound attempt by Matt Beleskey with 8:40 left, but he missed the net.
Marchand tied the game early in the second period with a great individual effort on his way to his 35th goal. He took a pass from Chara at the Devils’ blue line, split defencemen Andy Greene and Adam Larsson, faked Kinkaid to the ice and deposited a backhander into an open net.
New Jersey jumped in front at 16:59 of the first. Boucher, who took a high stick from Bergeron to set up a power-play opportunity, found Zajac on the inside of the right circle and the centre beat Rask for his 14th goal, and second in as many games.
Kinkaid was playing for the first time in five games because his game slipped taking over the injured Cory Schneider.
Scott Wedgewood had played well after being called up from Albany, with Kinkaid serving as his backup. The rest seemed to do him some good. He stopped all 11 shots in the first period, including a breakaway by Beleskey and 2-on-1 shots by David Pastrnak and Loui Eriksson.
“A great response,” Zajac said of Kinkaid. “He’s a gamer. He had like five 2-on-1s in the first period. He came up big and we got the lead, we did a better job of closing it up and not giving them as many odd-man rushes.”
NOTES: Bruins D John-Michael Liles missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury, while C Ryan Spooner was out with an undisclosed injury. Brett Connolly replaced Spooner and Joe Morrow was in for Liles again. … Schneider hopes to return to action this week. He has not played since hurting a knee against Dallas on March 4.