BOSTON — Jonas Gustavsson tried not to focus on what was happening at the other end of the ice. But the way Cory Schneider was playing made that impossible.
Though his evening ended in a 2-1 shootout loss, Schneider was phenomenal Sunday for the New Jersey Devils. The Boston College product allowed a first-period goal to Bruins winger Loui Eriksson, then morphed into a brick wall for the next 59 minutes, stopping each of the next 36 shots sent his way.
“Honestly, you’re trying not to think so much about what the other players are doing — goalies or skaters or whatever,” Gustavsson said. “You try to be in your own little bubble. No matter what the other guys are doing, you’ve got to do what you’re supposed to do. But obviously, I saw.”
In the opposite net, the Bruins goaltender was putting together a more quietly impressive performance. He allowed just one goal, as well — an Andy Greene redirect less than two minutes into the second — but did not face nearly the pressure that his Devils counterpart did.
Schneider’s play only elevated as the game wore on and the 1-1 deadlock persisted. He made 11 saves in the third period to help force overtime, then held his ground as the Bruins outshot the Devils 9-2 in the five-minute extra session.
“Late in the game, he came up with some big saves,” Gustavsson said. “We’re probably not going to score a lot on him, so you’re trying to focus and dig deep and trying to do the best you can to not let them get too many, because then it’s going to be tough to come back.”
It was the second time in four games the Bruins had faced a goaltender at the top of his game, following a 47-save showing Monday by Edmonton Oilers netminder Cam Talbot. But unlike Talbot’s, Gustavsson made sure Schneider’s standout performance came in a losing effort.
Gustavsson saved the best of his 29 stops for overtime, denying Travis Zajac on a 2-on-1 breakaway, and Ryan Spooner beat Schneider for the lone goal of the shootout to send the Garden crowd home happy.
“You’ve got to give credit to both goaltenders,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “They made some unbelievable saves to keep this game a low-scoring game. But Gus played extremely well. You saw some big saves when we needed him, whether it was in the shootout, whether it was in the overtime when we had that little breakdown. He played well.
“And I keep saying that over and over again: When your (backup) goaltender can give you games like that, it just makes your team that much better. Gus is doing a good job for us.”
The win — Gustavsson’s first since Nov. 25 — snapped a string of less-than-stellar outings for Tuukka Rask’s understudy, who’d surrendered three goals in each of his previous three starts. It also helped the Bruins, winners of 11 of their last 15 and five of their last six, continue their furious climb up the Atlantic Division standings.
They’ll enter Monday a mere one point back of the rival Montreal Canadiens, who’ve led the division since opening night.
“I mean, every point is important, so you try to stay with it,” Gustavsson said. “You’re not happy just because you got one point. You’re trying to keep the same focus and really trying to get that last point, too. Because at the end of the season, all those points are going to be huge.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Boston Bruins goalie Jonas Gustavsson