NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — David Clarkson had a goal and an assist as the New Jersey Devils scored three times in the first period against Tim Thomas and held on for a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Monday night.
Clarkson took the shot that Rob Niedermayer deflected in and then scored on a breakaway — set up by goalie Martin Brodeur — to make in 2-0. Zach Parise finished the barrage that assured the Devils (41-24-3) their 18th straight .500 or better season.
Blake Wheeler scored for the third consecutive game to cut Boston's deficit to 3-1 at 43 seconds of the middle period, but the eighth-place Bruins failed to stretch their lead at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Boston is one point ahead of the New York Rangers and has played one fewer game.
Patrice Bergeron made it 3-2 with 1:03 left after goalie Tuukka Rask was pulled for an extra skater.
New Jersey bounced back from a disappointing loss at the New York Islanders on Saturday and won its third straight at home. The Devils trail Atlantic Division-leading Pittsburgh by two points and will host the Penguins on Wednesday.
Brodeur made 34 saves for the Devils, 3-0 against Boston this season.
After a sloppy first 10 minutes that featured several turnovers and multiple stoppages, the Devils dominated the final half of the period and stormed to a 3-0 lead.
Niedermayer started it at 9:58 when he tipped in Clarkson's shot from the slot that was let go as he fell to the ice. Clarkson pushed the advantage to two with 2:47 remaining the period.
Brodeur fired a long pass from the crease past the red line and onto Clarkson's stick. Without breaking stride, Clarkson split a pair of defenders and skated in on Thomas. Shifting back and forth, Clarkson settled the puck on his backhand and slid in his eighth goal.
Clarkson, who missed 23 games from Dec. 31-Feb.13 due to a lower body injury, scored for the first time since Nov. 16.
His goal was still being announced when Parise made it 3-0 45 seconds later. Thomas stopped defenseman Mike Mottau's shot but couldn't control the rebound. Parise found the puck in front and backhanded in his 32nd goal. Parise was pointless in three of four games.
Thomas didn't make it out for the second period, marking the fifth time this season he has been pulled. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner made only his fifth start in 14 games and dropped his third straight decision (0-2-1). He stopped nine of 12 shots.
It has been a tough season for Thomas, who has lost his starting job to Rask. He also made just one mop-up appearance for the United States at the Vancouver Olympics.
Thomas had 36 wins with an NHL-best 2.10 goals-against average last season in leading Boston to the top seed in the East. Thomas has only 15 wins with a 2.57 GAA in 40 games this season, a key reason why the Bruins are fighting for a playoff spot with 14 games remaining.
Rask stopped all 16 shots he faced.
NOTES: Brodeur has three assists this season and 34 in his career, tying Ed Belfour for sixth on the NHL list for goalies. ... Clarkson has multiple points in four of 32 games. ... Boston is 2-3-1 on its seven-game road trip. It will end Tuesday at Carolina. ... Bruins RW Miroslav Satan returned after missing two games (groin). ... Niedermayer had a goal disallowed in the second when he deflected in a shot with a high stick.