Following last night’s win over a tough Pittsburgh Penguins team, the Devils were right back in the lion’s den taking on a very good Montreal Canadiens team in Montreal tonight.
In one of the strangest games you will ever see, the Devils came away with the 4-3 overtime win courtesy of a feed from Taylor Hall and a Kyle Palmieri blast.
The Devils had one loss in their last six games versus Montreal. The changes to the lineup featured Jesper Boqvist moving out of the forward group in favor of John Hayden. Colton White was the other healthy scratch while Kevin Rooney remains injured and was a scratch.
It was Hockey Fights Cancer Night in Montreal and the pregame featured the fans being asked to turn on the flashlights on their phones and share in a moment of silence, which was done league-wide. It was a cool visual on TV with the flashlights illuminating the Bell Centre through the dark.
Each team had won the first half of a back-to-back and were trying to take the full four points on the weekend. The Devils went with Mackenzie Blackwood in goal for the fourth straight time, as he has all six of the Devils’ wins this year. He stopped 31 of the 34 shots he saw from the Habs for a .912 save percentage.
Montreal threw out former Devil Keith Kinkaid. He turned aside 39 of the 43 shots the Devils had for a .907 save percentage. Kinkaid was 1-1-1 in his three starts for the Habs, but the Devils really peppered him, notching 20 shots in the first period. These 20 shots were the first time the Devils had thrown that much rubber at a goalie since last January 6 at Vegas, in the third period of that game.
Brendan Gallagher got the scoring started when he scored at the 18:41 mark of the first for the Habs. It came when Jeff Petry took the puck at the near faceoff circle and shot. That was tipped by Blackwood by Gallagher to make it 1-0 Canadiens. Tomas Tatar had the secondary assist.
But it would take exactly one minute, at the 19:41 mark for the Devils to tie things. This came off the stick of Nikita Gusev when the Devils kept the play moving down low and it came out to Blake Coleman in the slot. He made a nifty little pass to Gusev at the side of the net and he dunks it in to make it 1-1. Gusev had missed a grade A chance just moments before and it was nice to see him put it home on his second chance. The assist on this goal extended Coleman’s point streak to three games while Travis Zajac, who had the secondary, now has points in his last two games.
Montreal would retake the lead just 7:43 gone in the second period. Habs defenseman Cale Fleury scored his first NHL goal when he took the puck in the slot from Phillip Danault and stickhandled his way through the Devils defense. He shot upstairs on Blackwood to give Montreal the 2-1 lead.
Then the penalties started to be called.
After calling nothing through the first half of the game, the referees suddenly got their whistles out and the remaining portion of the game was a mishmash of 4-on-4’s, 5-on-3’s and other assorted combinations of power plays.
Nick Suzuki of the Canadiens took advantage on the power play first. He put Montreal up 3-1 when he scored from the side of the net, jamming it home from Max Domi and Shea Weber to put the Habs up by two at the 18:42 mark of the second. This one was at 5-on-3 for the Habs as PK Subban was called for a slash at 17:47 and Damon Severson for a hook at 18:18.
But the Devils would come right back again. With about 1.1 seconds left, on a shorthanded 2-on-1, Nico Hischier finished off a feed from Pavel Zacha and scored to make it 3-2 before the second intermission. That was the Devils’ first shorthanded goal of the season.
The third period, as noted above, was really chaotic in terms of penalties called. There were, in total, 20 minutes of combined minor penalties between the two teams in this frame.
The Devils were the beneficiaries as Wayne Simmonds scored on the man advantage at 15:12 to tie the game at three. Domi had taken an interference penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for brushing Coleman’s stick away when he dropped it on a play near the Devils’ blue line. In the ensuing power play for the Devils, during which Palmieri was assessed a cross-checking penalty against Petry to make it 4-on-4 for a time, the Devils made a tic-tac-toe passing play to Simmonds. He was camped out at the right side of the net and took a beautiful pass from Hall, burying it to make knot the game up at three.
The Devils had not won a game this year in which they had trailed by more than one goal. Things seemed to be business as usual as Montreal seemingly scored on a goal mouth scramble. The referee made no initial signal that there was a goal as he had seemed to whistle the play dead.
He then signaled a good goal, following a conference with the other officials and things seemed to be headed to a 4-3 loss to the Devils (the goal came with about 47 seconds left on the clock). John Hynes could not challenge the call for goalie interference as it was within the final minute of the game, when all challenges have to be initiated by Toronto.
And sure enough, Toronto did challenge it. The initial thought of all of those watching was that goalie interference would be the Devils’ saving grace. It looked like the player who scored fell on top of Blackwood not allowing him to make the save. The final verdict, however, was that the puck was “kicked” into the net by the Habs’ player with his knee, disallowing the goal and reverting the score to 3-3.
It was a crazy sequence and one that is tough to really describe, but we were playing on and the Devils still had life.
Once time ran out on that insane third period, we were off to overtime.
And here, penalties would once again play a part. Just 44 seconds into the extra session, Danualt was called for hooking against Hall as Hall dashed up the left wing boards. The Devils used their timeout, regrouped and, when the play resumed again, Severson took a shot that went wide and was collected by Hischier. Hischier gave to Hall along the far half wall and he found a nice seam to Palmieri, who simply blasted the puck by Kinkaid to give the Devils the W.
Overall, the Devils were 2-for-6 on the power play, including the game winner, with four shots. They also had the shorty goal and two shots shorthanded. Montreal was 1-for-5 with four shots on the PP and one shot shorthanded.
The Devils won only 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs and were outhit 31 to 22. They did have more blocks than the Habs at 20 to Montreal’s eight and had less giveaways at four to the Canadiens’ 17.
Individually, PK Subban led the skaters in time on ice with 23:47 (including 49 seconds of power play time and 1:56 of penalty killing). Hall led the forwards with 21:09 (including 4:49 of PP time). Will Butcher led in shots on goal with six, Coleman led in hits with five, Andy Greene led in blocked shots with seven and Severson led in takeaways with three.
Next up, the Devils will return home to take on the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. Can the Devils continue their resurgence and beat the Bruins in their second meeting of three this season? We will find out on Tuesday.