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Bruins: Youth is served

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- One game doesn't make for the plot line of a Disney movie, but a few magical moments unfolded here for the Bruins last night in an impressive 5-2 win over the Devils.

Most dazzling was the karma connection between fellow Russians Sergei Samsonov and Sergei Zinovjev, the slick and elusive Siberian who punctuated his NHL debut by setting up Samsonov with the tiebreaking 3-2 goal with 5:45 gone in the third period -- part of Boston's four-goal explosion in the final period.

"He's got plenty of skills," said Samsonov, who broke into a beaming grin after potting the goal, the Magical Muscovite left with a wide-open right side after Zinovjev fed him from the left circle. "He's not an 18-year-old rookie out there. He's 23, and he's played in a lot of international tournaments -- and he knows what he's capable of."

The win lifted Boston's record to an impressive 5-2-2 and it came with yet another prized youngster, Andrew Raycroft, in net. Raycroft made 31 saves and improved his record to 3-1-1. And then there was the work of rookie Patrice Bergeron, who potted the tying goal, making it 2-2, only 26 seconds into the third period, initiating the four-goal streak that came in a span of 13 minutes 7 seconds.

"These guys are quality players," said coach Mike Sullivan, mulling the impact of his kiddie corps. "They've all stepped in with a certain level of maturity -- and I don't know if you can play in the league without it. We're encouraged. We feel like we are making strides."

Trailing, 2-1, after 40 minutes, the Bruins set the stage for the Zinovjev-Samsonov game-breaker when Bergeron slipped free in front of Martin Brodeur and tapped in P.J. Axelsson's pass from the left corner. Bergeron scored the second goal of his young career.

"What a job he's done," said Brian Rolston, lauding the rookie pivot. "P.J. and I kid him all the time, you know, `Hey, finally we're on a line with a guy who can pass.' "

Early in the night, a troubling trend continued against the Devils, the Bruins allowing the opposition the first goal. It was the seventh time in nine games this season the Bruins gave up the go-ahead goal. It could become a very long season if they consistently put themselves in holes of 1-0 or worse.

Patrik Elias, one of Boston's playoff nemeses last spring, provided the go-ahead strike with 2:27 gone in the first, only 40 seconds after Mike Knuble was whistled off for a slashing minor. Elias sunk into the slot, close to Raycroft (second straight start), as Scott Gomez broke across left wing, shifted to the middle, and shoveled off a 25-30-foot backhander. Elias, in perfect position, tipped home the shot for his second goal of the season.

Not only have the Bruins struggled this season with their power plays, they've also had a difficult time shutting down the opposition's man advantage. Exit 16W provided no relief in the PK department.

However, the Bruins converted on their first man advantage, with Jamie Langenbrunner serving a tripping penalty, to pull back even, 1-1, with 5:06 remaining in the first. Martin Lapointe, working with Samsonov, pushed a tight shot by Brodeur after Bruins captain Joe Thornton made the play with a pass to Samsonov from near the blue line. It was Lapointe's first goal of the season.

The Bruins were poised to take the lead when Colin White drew a cross-checking penalty at 17:00, the behemoth defenseman applying the rough stick to Zinovjev. The smooth-skating Siberian flustered White with a cute turnaround in the corner, and White, trying to contain him, brought the stick up too high.

However, it was only 62 seconds later when Jeff Jillson made an ill-advised long pass through the neutral zone and Scott Niedermayer picked it off for a return breakaway pass to a streaking Langenbrunner. Niedermayer made a perfect bounce pass off the right-wing board and Langenbrunner was off, closing down the wing and connecting with a sharp wrister to the top right corner. Jillson was not under pressure when he made the play, and no doubt was looking to make a home run pass of his own in hopes of springing the Bruins to a 2-1 lead. Instead, the home run went the other way.

"Too many odd-man rushes, 3-on-2s and 2-on-1s," noted Lapointe, summing up Boston's early play. "We allowed the goal on the penalty kill . . . we can't allow that."

Following a scoreless second period, the Bruins came out with the four-goal outburst, triggered by the Bergeron goal. Only 2:30 after the Samsonov-Zinovjev tiebreaker, Thornton cruised behind the net and pushed out a centering pass once clear of the right post. Glenn Murray, set up in his familiar shop in the right circle, made the lightning-quick snap for the 4-2 lead.

Working on a power play later in the period (Scott Stevens off for interference), the Bruins blew it wide open when Thornton, after dishing the puck off the right-wing half-board, cruised to the net and popped in a cream puff of a rebound for the three-goal lead. The four-goal rally was complete, the defending Stanley Cup champs sent packing.

"Let me tell you," said Rolston, the former Devil, "there aren't too many times the Devils give up four goals in the third period, in their building."

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