NEWARK, N.J. — The Boston Bruins ran their winning streak to 10 games Tuesday night, not that the streak means much to them.
A 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center kept the Bruins on top of the Eastern Conference with 99 points, two back of the St. Louis Blues in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy.
“We’re not really thinking anything,” said left winger Brad Marchand, whose short-handed goal early in the second period put the Bruins ahead for good. “We’re trying to clear that out of our mind and take it game by game and day by day. We play too many games in too short of a time to think like that right now.
“It’s a struggle getting up the next day and looking at the next game.”
Every NHL team should hope to struggle the way the Bruins are right now.
Nine of the Bruins’ 10 consecutive wins were decided in regulation. Boston is averaging four goals per game during the streak while holding opponents to 1.5 goals per contest.
The Bruins (47-17-5) were coming off a 4-1 victory Monday night against the Minnesota Wild, while the Devils had not played since Saturday, but Boston jumped all over the host team during the first period.
The Bruins had the first nine shots of the game, and center Patrice Bergeron’s 20th goal of the season at 14:33 put his team ahead 1-0. He chipped a backhander through the legs of goaltender Martin Brodeur, who allowed four goals on 31 shots.
“It’s very strange. I don’t know what the answer is,” Devils left winger Ryane Clowe said regarding the Bruins running roughshod over the rested Devils in the first 20 minutes. “You’re coming off a losing streak, but that’s the least of it. The fact you’re fighting for your playoff lives and you’re playing a team that won nine in a row … we’re a very passive team right now.
“They’ve won a lot of games. They’re a good hockey team, a top club. They saw a game for the taking and they took it. We don’t win any battles. We don’t compete.”
The Devils (29-27-13) suffered a third consecutive loss leaving their playoff hopes on life support. They are five points out of the final wild-card spot, which is held by the Blue Jackets. Columbus also has one game in hand on New Jersey.
“The first period was inexcusable for the situation we’re in,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “I don’t have an answer why. It has to come from inside the dressing room. This time of year, you look around the league, your best players, your veteran guys have to be your best players. We didn’t get enough tonight.”
Center Patrik Elias drew the Devils into a 1-1 tie early in the second period with a five-on-three power play goal, but Marchand scored 54 seconds later to put the Bruins in front again. Right winger Jarome Iginla snapped a shot past Brodeur 59 seconds after Marchand scored for what turned out to be the winner.
Boston backup goaltender Chad Johnson made 22 saves to improve to 15-3-1. He was rarely tested, as the Bruins played a strong game in front of him.
“Tonight, I think we tightened up,” Johnson said. “We had a couple breakdowns and they capitalized on one there in the third, but I think we’re doing a better job here.”
The breakdown came in the neutral zone and led to center Travis Zajac’s goal that cut the lead to 4-2 after center Chris Kelly gave the Bruins a three-goal advantage about two minutes earlier.
The Bruins played for the fifth time in seven nights, but they looked nothing like a team that was battling fatigue.
“I mean, I think we’re all in pretty good shape right now,” Marchand said. “We really focused on coming out hard in the first and trying to get the lead. Sometimes, teams sit back when they know you’re playing two in two (days). They think you’re going to be tired and relaxed.
“I think we took advantage of that.”
NOTES: Bruins RW Jarome Iginla tied John Bucyk for 25th on the all-time goals list by scoring the 556th goal of his career. … Boston D Johnny Boychuk (lower body) did not play, and he is listed as day-to-day. It was the second consecutive game he missed due to the injury. … With LW Ryan Carter out of the lineup because of an upper-body injury, the Devils recalled LW Tim Sestito from AHL Albany. Sestito played on the Devils’ fourth line. … Devils D Anton Volchenkov was a healthy scratch. He was replaced by rookie D Eric Gelinas.