Tim Thomas and the visiting Boston Bruins got the best of the New Jersey Devils in a game that felt more like a playoff contest than a regular-season matchup.
And it was a game that lived up to its billing, a showdown between the two hottest teams in the Eastern Conference.
Thomas made 25 saves and Milan Lucic broke a scoreless tie early in the third period as Bruins beat the Devils, 2-0, last night.
"It was a good test and good game for us," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It was one of those games where you have to be really patient, strong on the puck and minimize mistakes. It was a nice win."
The Bruins, the Eastern Conference leaders, extended their winning streak to six. The only negative for Boston was the end of Phil Kessel's point scoring streak, snapped after 18 games.
Lucic scored 49 seconds into the third period. Zdeno Chara fired a hard shot from the top of the right circle. The rebound came right to Lucic, positioned between the hash marks and he buried the shot between Scott Clemmensen's pads.
Thomas, recording his third shutout this season, made the tally stand up with solid stops on Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus in the final 4 minutes.
"New Jersey just doesn't give you much offensively," Thomas said. "The key to that is to be patient and play good defense yourself. We certainly did a good job of that tonight. My teammates helped me out tonight big-time, getting to rebounds. They gave me a pretty good Christmas present."
In other games:
* At Columbus, Raitis Ivanans and Peter Harrold scored their first goals of the season, and Jonathan Quick stopped 24 shots for his first career shutout in the Los Angeles Kings' 3-0 victory over the Blue Jackets.
* At New York, Alex Ovechkin, who had only two career points in six games at Madison Square Garden, showed off his MVP form with two goals and an assist as he rallied the Washington Capitals from a four-goal deficit to a 5-4 overtime victory over the Rangers. Shaone Morrisonn scored his first goal of the season on the only shot in overtime to win it 59 seconds into the extra session. The only other time the Rangers lost at home after leading, 4-0, was March 27, 1979.
* At Pittsburgh, Mike Smith made just 15 saves to earn his second shutout of the season, Paul Szczechura had a goal and an assist and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Penguins, 2-0.
* At Sunrise, Fla., Tomas Vokoun made 25 saves for his second consecutive shutout, and Michael Frolik scored twice to help the Florida Panthers beat the Nashville Predators, 3-0.
* At Uniondale, N.Y., Bryan Little scored his second goal of the game on a power play in the third period and the Atlanta Thrashers kept the Islanders winless in 10 games (0-9-1) with a 4-2 victory. Ilya Kovalchuk assisted on Little's goal for his 500th NHL point in his 500th game.
* At Detroit, Pavel Datsyuk had two goals and an assist, and Ty Conklin made 33 saves to lift the Red Wings to a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues.
* At Toronto, James Neal scored a goal in each period as the Dallas Stars routed the Maple Leafs 8-2.
* At St. Paul, Minn., third-period goals by Cal Clutterbuck, Marian Gaborik and Stephane Veilleux backed Niklas Backstrom's 35-save performance in goal as the Wild downed the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2.
* At Calgary, third-period goals by Brent Sutter, Mark Giordano and Mike Cammalleri and 30 saves by Miikka Kiprusoff boosted the Flames to a 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks.
* At Denver, Brett Clark's goal 1:48 into overtime gave the Colorado Rockies a 5-4 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.
* At San Jose, Patrick Marleau had a goal and two assists and Evgeni Nabokov had 33 saves to lead the Sharks to a 5-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks. *