Bruins Wrap: Matt Irwin Scores Twice As B’s Drop Devils In Preseason Opener

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Matt Irwin made quite the first impression on his new employer Sunday night.

The veteran defenseman scored twice on the power play as the Boston Bruins won their preseason opener 2-0 over the New Jersey Devils at Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

Neither team found the back of the net in the opening 20 minutes, as Jonas Gustavsson and New Jersey’s Keith Kinkaid held firm in their respective nets.

The Devils came close to capitalizing against the former Detroit Red Wings netminder, however, beating him with one shot that hit the post and another by Adam Henrique crossed the line but was waved off.

Boston’s best scoring chance came shortly after the frame’s halfway point, when Jimmy Hayes, playing in his first game with the Bruins, took a cross-ice feed near the left circle and fired it on net. Kinkaid made the stop, though, and subsequently was plowed over by Irwin, resulting in a goaltender interference penalty for the new B’s blueliner.

Irwin’s infraction was one of three Bruins penalties in the first — including one by Brandon DeFazio just 47 seconds in — and their lone power play was cut short after just 40 seconds when Brett Connolly was whistled for tripping during the man advantage.

New Jersey held an 11-10 edge in shots on goal after one, with both teams coming up empty on scoring bids in the period’s final minute.

The Devils dominated possession early on in the the middle frame, but the tide turned in a hurry around the five-minute mark.

DeFazio atoned for his earlier miscue by drawing a hooking call in front of the New Jersey net, and Irwin capitalized on the ensuing power play by potting the game’s first goal off a feed from Ryan Spooner.

Colin Miller, who also laid a big hit on Adam Lorito later in the frame, was credited with the secondary assist.

Jeremy Smith — who, like Gustavsson, is battling for the right to be Tuukaa Rask’s No. 2 — took over at the 10:28 mark of the second. Gustavsson saved all 18 shots he faced.

Zac Rinaldo nearly added to Boston’s cushion with six minutes remaining in the period, but his bid for a highlight-reel goal was foiled by the right post. The 25-year-old winger — who said this week he’d like to prove he’s more than just a brawler — showed some excellent speed and stickhandling on the play, though, and his efforts were enough to draw a slashing call.

Boston outshot New Jersey 10-5 in the second.

The Bruins announced at the start of the third that winger Seth Griffith had suffered a lower-body injury and would not return. The injury was a tough blow for Boston, as the line of Jake DeBrusk, Alexander Khokhlachev and Griffith was arguably the Bruins’ best in the first two periods.

The post-whistle antics that had been taking place throughout the night finally came to a head early in the third, as Boston’s Ben Sexton and New Jersey’s Paul Thompson were slapped with matching roughing penalties after Sexton wrestled Thompson to the ground behind the Devils’ net.

A holding call on Damon Severson seconds later gave the Bruins a 4-on-3 man advantage, and Irwin once again took advantage, with the former San Jose Shark firing a shot from the point past Devils goalie Scott Wedgewood to make it 2-0 Bruins. Khokhlachev assisted on the goal.

Irwin narrowly missed out on a hat trick later in the period, missing the net after trailing a breakaway spearheaded by Spooner and Jimmy Hayes.

Smith was not challenged as much as Gustavsson but still recorded a clean sheet of his own, saving all 12 shots he faced.

The Bruins will host the Washington Capitals on Tuesday for the first preseason tilt of the year at TD Garden.

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Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images

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