BOSTON — It doesn’t seem to matter who is in net for the Boston Bruins lately.
Whether it is starter Tuukka Rask or backup Jonas Gustavsson, the Bruins’ have limited opponents to two or fewer goals in six of their 10 games in December, including Sunday afternoon’s 2-1 shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden.
“When your backup goaltender can give you games like that, it just makes your team that much better,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Gustavsson, who made 29 saves Sunday.
Rask has wins in each of his last six starts and 11 of 15 dating back to early November, but Gustavsson had fallen into a bit of a funk before Sunday’s solid showing, allowing 11 goals and taking losses in his last three starts coming in.
“(Tuukka’s) been playing lights out lately, so I just got to try to take advantage of every chance that I get to play and basically do whatever I can to help the team get the points,” Gustavsson said.
“That’s what it’s all about — no matter who’s in net, who’s playing, who’s in the lineup. We all believe in each other and I’ve just got to do my part when I’m called on. So far, so good.”
Lo and behold, Boston (19-9-4) finds itself one point behind the Atlantic Division-leading Montreal Canadiens (20-11-3) after Sunday’s win.
Considering how the Bruins started the season, dropping four of six and going 8-8-1 through 17 games, it’s an impressive accomplishment.
“I like what I see, so we’ll make the most of it,” Julien said.
Bruins center Ryan Spooner put the finishing touches on Sunday’s narrow victory with his decisive shootout goal, which proved to be the only one in the session.
Loui Eriksson, a right winger, also scored for the Bruins, who are 5-0-1 over its last six games and has won four straight against New Jersey and 16 of 19 meetings overall.
Last season, the Bruins swept the three-game season series while outscoring the Devils 10-4.
Cory Schneider stopped 38 shots, and defenseman Andy Greene scored for New Jersey (16-13-5), which dropped its third straight and has lost four of five.
“It was a great game, both teams I thought the goalies were great and I thought we battled hard,” Devils center Travis Zajac said. “We took it to them a lot that game I thought, you know it’s tough not getting that second point but I think we are going to be happy with our effort.”
Eriksson scored his 13th goal of the season to put Boston up 1-0 with 13:45 to go in the first period, beating Schneider on a high stick-side wrister.
Greene snapped a 13-game scoreless drought as New Jersey tied it 1-1 just 1:51 into the second, redirecting the puck past Gustavsson on a pass from right winger Lee Stempniak.
Boston had a flurry of scoring chances late in the second, only to be stonewalled by Schneider.
In the closing seconds of a scoreless third period, an interference penalty on Devils defenseman John Moore set the Bruins up with their first power-play opportunity of the game.
Zajac had a chance to steal a win on a short-handed 2-on-1 rush in overtime, but he couldn’t elevate the puck over Gustavsson’s pads.
“I took my time and I just couldn’t get it up,” Zajac said.
Boston responded with its own 2-on-1 rush, but Bergeron missed a wide open net on a feed from left winger Brad Marchand.
“I would have liked to see us score before we got to the shootout,” Julien said. “We had lots of chances and … give Schneider a lot of credit. I thought he played well.”
NOTES: New Jersey G Cory Schneider, a Marblehead, Mass., native, compiled a 66-26-7 record with a 2.10-goals-against average over three seasons at Boston College from 2004-07 and remains the program’s all-time leader with 15 career shutouts. … Devils C Patrik Elias was a healthy scratch and F Jordin Tootoo returned to the lineup Sunday. Tootoo, who struggled with alcoholism early in his career, posted on his Twitter account Saturday that he is “grateful to be sober for five years.” … On Saturday, Boston sent F David Pastrnak to AHL Providence on a conditioning loan and also assigned C Alexander Khokhlachev to Providence. Khokhlachev scored a goal and Pastrnak had an assist in Providence’s 4-2 loss at Springfield. “Sometimes that point doesn’t mean you played well,” Bruins coach Claude Julien assessed. … New Jersey visits the Detroit Red Wings and Boston plays host to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.