NEWARK, N.J.-- Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien knows where his team resides in the NHL's Eastern Conference playoff race and, specifically, in the Atlantic Division standings.
He also recognizes the Bruins have an opportunity to make up ground against the teams that Boston sees on a regular basis.
"We're in a battle here with a lot of teams in our division and we have some games in hand," Julien said after center Ryan Spooner and right winger Kevin Hayes scored 13:46 apart in the second period to lead the Bruins to a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night at the Prudential Center.
"These are the kind of games you have to win when you have games in hand to try and get back into that upper group."
Left winger Frank Vatrano and defenseman Colin Miller also scored for Boston, which won for the first time since Dec. 29. Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson made 19 saves for the Bruins (21-14-4), who improved to 12-3-2 away from home. The win also the 3,000th in franchise history.
"When you look at 3,000, it means that team has been around for a while," Julien said. "I've always been proud of being a part of an Original Six team and this team has done a lot of things in the past and we hope we can follow that up in the future."
While the Bruins hope the win is the start of a surge to the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Devils find themselves reeling. New Jersey (20-17-5) lost its third straight game.
"We're definitely fighting it," said goaltender Cory Schneider, who made 27 saves.
Right winger Bobby Farnham scored the Devils' goal.
"We didn't get to those hard areas," said right winger Jordin Tootoo, whose first-period fight with Boston left winger Zac Rinaldo was one of the few events to cause the announced sellout crowd of 16,514 to cheer.
The Bruins did not have the appearance of a team that had lost two straight and five of their last six. Boston led for almost the entire night after Vatrano's goal 2:02 into the game.
"Goal scoring has never been an issue for us," Julien said.
The sequence began with New Jersey defenseman Eric Gelinas attempting to clear the puck from the defensive zone, but his pass was intercepted inside the blue line by Miller, who fired a shot toward Schneider. While New Jersey defenseman Jon Merrill was battling Hayes, Vatrano slipped in and wristed a quick shot for his sixth goal in 24 games.
Boston continued its in-game trend of scoring quick, period-opening goals when Spooner's wrist shot from the blue line eluded Schneider 4:49 into the second period to make it 2-0.
"We played well," Julien said. "Had good net front presence and the first three goals were proof of that."
New Jersey cut the deficit in half on Farnham's goal at 11:57. The waiver-wire pickup raced up the right wing and whipped a shot from the circle for his sixth of the season in 24 games.
Farnham's goal was only New Jersey's second in their last three games. The Devils lost all three by an aggregate 7-2 to Detroit, Montreal and Boston.
"Part of an 82-game season. Sometimes it goes a little dry," Farnham said of the Devils' offensive drought before explaining he "tried to shoot low blocker" on Gustavsson.
Boston took advantage of the malfunctioning New Jersey attack and went into the second intermission with a 3-1 lead after Hayes' power-play goal with 1:25 left in the period. With right winger Paul Thompson serving a two-minute minor for tripping Boston defenseman Zach Trotman, Hayes tipped defenseman Zdeno Chara's point shot to allow the Bruins to regain a two-goal advantage.
Boston finished 1-3 on the man advantage and killed both of New Jersey's power plays.
Miller's left-side slap shot 6:33 into the third pushed the advantage to 4-1.
"We needed to play with more urgency and start with good forecheck," Chara said. "I thought for most part we did a good job.
"Nice win against a good team that played hard."
NOTES: Devils LW Tuomo Ruutu was placed on the injured reserve retroactive to Jan. 6 with a lower-body injury. The Devils also assigned RW Mike Sislo to AHL Albany and called up D Marc-Andre Gragnani, C Jim O'Brien and RW Paul Thompson. ... Boston scratched D Joe Morrow and RW Tyler Randell. LW Brad Marchand sat out the final game of his three-game suspension for clipping Ottawa D Mark Borowiecki on Dec. 29. ... New Jersey scratched D John Moore, D David Schlemko and C Tyler Kennedy. ... In a joint statement with Jerilyn and Dennis Laing, National Women's Hockey League commissioner Dani Rylan, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson and the Kraft family, owner of the NFL's New England Patriots, Bruins president Cam Neely offered "the full support of the Boston Bruins" to Boston Pride F Denna Laing, who "suffered a significant spinal injury during last Thursday's Outdoor Women's Classic at Gillette Stadium," the NWHL wrote in a release Friday.