New Jersey 3, Boston 2

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EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker)—The New Jersey Devils’ third straight third-period comeback finally produced a win.

Jiri Bicek and Jeff Friesen scored in a four-minute span of the third period as the Devils halted a three-game winless streak with a 3-2 victory over the road-weary Boston Bruins.

New Jersey rallied for a 2-2 tie at Philadelphia on Tuesday, then erased a three-goal deficit against league-leading Ottawa before falling, 5-3, on Wednesday. In this one, the Devils trailed, 2-1, heading into the final 20 minutes.

Bicek tied it at 9:44 of the third period, backhanding the puck past goaltender Jeff Hackett, who stopped John Madden on a breakaway but could not cover the rebound.

“I don’t exactly know what happened,” said Bruins defenseman Don Sweeney, who appeared to have a chance to clear the puck but hesitated. “It’s a hard play. (Hackett) just makes the save on a breakaway. I tried to get it out of there, it just happened.”

With 6:27 remaining, the Bruins coughed up the puck inside New Jersey’s blue line and Friesen carried up the left side. He got to the top of the faceoff circle and blasted a shot past Hackett’s glove for his 17th goal of the season and third in as many games.

“Jamie (Langenbrunner) was doing a great job driving the net. I was just fortunate to get it in,” Friesen said. “If Jamie is not driving the net, I think Hackett probably plays it a little differently. I just wanted to get it on net and the worst case, the puck lays there for (Langenbrunner).”

The Devils held on as Martin Brodeur made 14 of his 30 saves in the third period. He helped New Jersey remain the only team in the NHL that has not suffered consecutive regulation losses this season.

“You don’t want to start slipping,” Brodeur said. “We take a lot of pride in not slipping. … It was disappointing against Ottawa. We showed a lot of character. We really worked hard in the third period and we survived the last three minutes.”

Joe Thornton scored both goals in the second period for Boston, which fell to 1-4-1 on a seven-game road trip that concludes Sunday against the New York Islanders. The Bruins fell into eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

“We weren’t playing intelligently when we had to,” said Boston coach Robbie Ftorek, who held the same post with the Devils from 1998-2000. “We gave up too many shots, so it’s tough. We didn’t have the discipline we needed throughout the whole game.”

Madden opened the scoring at 7:51 of the first period. After linemate Jay Pandolfo made a one-handed swipe to push the puck away from Bruins defenseman Sean Brown, Madden wristed a shot from the left faceoff circle that beat Hackett to the stick side.

Boston was outshot, 14-10, in the second period but scored twice to take the lead.

At 4:34, Thornton split defensemen Brian Rafalski and Scott Stevens, avoided a poke-check by Brodeur and slid in a backhander for his 30th goal.

Less than five minutes later, Thornton got a piece of Glen Murray’s wrister off the right boards and the puck trickled by Brodeur.

“You have to be nervous when he has the puck,” Devils coach Pat Burns said of Thornton. “He’s a pretty good player. You saw on that (first) goal that he went around everybody. He went around a lot of years of experience and just about beat the best goalie in the NHL all by himself.”

But New Jersey improved to 5-13-2 when trailing after two periods against a Bruins’ team that had lost just once in 23 games when leading through 40 minutes.

“We tried, we fought like dogs in the third period to come back in Philadelphia and against Ottawa,” Madden said. “(Falling behind) is something we can’t afford to keep doing, especially against good teams. It’s going to cost us.”

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