The Devils had not lost to the Montreal Canadiens in seven straight games. They were facing the Habs for the third time this year and, due to the flu, were missing Carey Price. They would get Charlie Lindgren instead, a goalie they lit up the last time they saw him. All signs pointed to a New Jersey win tonight. Instead, they squandered a three-goal lead and lost 5-4 in a shootout.
The flu bug, as mentioned, had hit the Canadiens. They were missing, in addition to Price, Jordan Weal and Victor Mete who were both ill. PK Subban was out for the Devils also with an illness while Nico Hischier – who left the Dallas game in the second period to receive stitches in his knee, and then returned to finish the game and score the game-tying goal – was out tonight. The Devils were also without Sami Vatanen, who got injured on Saturday while blocking a shot.
Both Hischier and Vatanen are listed as day-to-day.
Because of this, there were some vacancies in the Devils’ lineup. Missing two defensemen and a forward, Mirco Mueller slotted back in on D along with Colton White, who was recalled from Binghamton of the AHL. Up front, Joey Anderson, also called up from Binghamton and making his New Jersey season debut tonight, replaced Nico. Also, with Hischier out, Jack Hughes moved up to center the top line between Jesper Bratt and Kyle Palmieri. Anderson skated on the fourth line with John Hayden and Kevin Rooney while on D, White was on the third pairing with Connor Carrick. White wore number 2 while Anderson moved from 49 to 14.
As mentioned, Lindgren was in net for Montreal. This was the third meeting between these teams this year and the third Canadiens goalie between the pipes. The Devils saw Keith Kinkaid in the first game and Price in their second meeting back on Thanksgiving night in November.
Lindgren made 20 stops on 24 Devils shots for an .833 save percentage. The Devils had Louis Domingue making his second straight start and he turned aside 32 of the 36 shots he saw for an .889 save percentage on the night.
Miles Wood kicked off the scoring 9:17 into the game when Bratt got the puck up ice and Wood touched it and it got away from him. He then beat Canadiens’ defenseman Christian Folin to the loose puck and shot from a weird angle almost at the goal line. The puck beat Lindgren to make it 1-0 Devils. Mueller had the secondary assist on the goal.
It remained 1-0 through the first intermission and, 1:51 into the second, Palmieri doubled the Devils lead. This came on the power play as Montreal’s Shea Weber was off for tripping. Palmieri had drawn this penalty and then, about five seconds in, Blake Coleman tapped a puck won off the faceoff back to Damon Severson at the point. Severson found Palmieri cutting backdoor towards the net and made a nice tape-to-tape pass to him. He then sniped one by Lindgren to extend the Devils’ lead to 2-0.
Immediately following the faceoff following the goal, at 1:54, Dale Weise and Hayden got into it, drawing the first fighting majors of the night.
Following two nice saves from Domingue midway through the second at around the 6:23 mark, Bratt made it 3-0 Devils. At 6:44, with play at four-on-four (an Artturi Lehkonen tripping call and a Severson hook set this up), Bratt made a slick backhanded pass to Will Butcher through the neutral zone. Once in the Montreal end, Butcher slipped one to Pavel Zacha, who then found Bratt trailing. Bratt was in alone on Lindgren and kind of flubbed a wrist shot that somehow trickled by Lindgren to triple the Devils lead. It was not pretty, but to paraphrase MSG’s Steve Cangialosi, it will look like the hardest shot in the world in tomorrow’s box score.
The game’s second fight came at the 12:29 mark when Nick Cousins of the Habs looked to spark them by fighting Rooney.
And spark them it did.
The comeback began when Joel Armia scored unassisted and shorthanded at the 13:08 mark of the second. It came off of a Palmieri turnover in the neutral zone. Max Domi had gone off for slashing at the same time as the fight, putting New Jersey on the power play and the Devils got a little bit sloppy. Armia, with Severson on his back, skated into the Devils’ zone and banked a shot off of the post and in to make it 3-1.
The Habs would cut the Devils lead to one at 17:06 of the second when Nate Thompson got the puck just inside the Devils blue line. He then skated in on Domingue, cutting towards the net and protecting the puck with his leg as he drove in on Butcher. He beat Domingue and it was now 3-2 Devils. Ryan Poehling had the lone assist on the goal.
Domingue ended the second period by making a nice point-blank glove save on Domi, but the Canadiens had the momentum as we headed off to the third period.
Just 7:22 into the third, Cousins scored to tie the game at three. It happened when Domi barreled into the Devils zone and created a turnover deep. Brett Kulak, a defenseman, jumped up to get the puck to Cousins in front of the net. Cousins scored to tie the game.
Montreal would take a 4-3 lead when Folin scored at the 9:35 mark of the third. This one occurred when the Habs pressured the Devils in their zone, not allowing them to clear. Folin got the puck at the point and wristed one that redirected off of Travis Zajac’s stick and a leg in front, bouncing around and into the Devils’ net. Tomas Tatar had the primary assist while Phillip Danault had the secondary on the goal that made it 4-3 Montreal.
But the Devils were not done either. Domingue was pulled with just over a minute to go in regulation. Then, at 18:51, the Canadiens got hit with a too many men on the ice bench minor setting up a potential 6-on-4 advantage for the Devils.
They won the faceoff in the Montreal zone and Domingue took off for the bench. The Devils had the two-man advantage and, with exactly 20 seconds to go in the game, the Devils got the puck on net. There was a mad scramble as Wayne Simmonds, Palmieri and Coleman collapsed down on the goal mouth. Palmieri finally put the puck in to notch his second of the night and to tie things up for New Jersey. Coleman (primary) and Hughes (secondary) had the assists on the goal.
With that power play goal, the Devils went 2-for-5 on the night with six shots. They also had a pair of shorthanded shots. Montreal was 0-for-2 with two power play shots and four shorthanded shots – one of which they scored on.
When regulation ended, we were off to overtime for the fourth straight Devils game. The OT period did not settle things, however, and it was off to a shootout.
In the first round, Nikita Gusev lost control of the puck and could not get a shot off and Armia was stopped on a nice glove save by Domingue. In round two, Palmieri was stopped as he too sort of lost control of the puck and Ilya Kovalchuk was up for the Habs. He scored putting the game on Hughes’ stick. His shot was stopped by Lindgren and the Canadiens had the win.
According to Cangialosi, the trade with the Atlanta Thrashers that made Kovalchuk a Devil happened ten years ago today. What a fitting way to mark this anniversary. Also, coincidentally, Kovalchuk, while with the Devils, set the NHL record for shootout goals in a season (2011-12), which just happened to be the subject of tonight’s MSG trivia question.
Kovalchuk was getting booed all night by the Prudential Center faithful and, when he scored in the shootout, quieted the crowd by putting his finger to his lips and doing the “shhh” pantomime.
The Devils won 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Hughes doing well in leading the centers with a 57-percent winning clip on his faceoffs. The Devils were outhit by a significant margin at 27-7. They did lead by a lot in blocks at 24-5, however. They also had nine turnovers to the Habs’ three.
Individually, Severson led all Devils skaters with 29:24 of ice time (including 5:04 on the power play and 1:41 killing penalties) while Coleman led the forwards with 23:03 (4:10 on the power play and 1:44 shorthanded).
Anderson, in his Devils season debut, had two penalty minutes (a third period high-sticking penalty) and a hit in 11:06 of ice time (which included 47 seconds on the PK). White registered a minus-1 plus/minus rating and had two blocked shots and a giveaway in 10:34 of total ice time.
Coleman led in shots on goal with eight, Hayden led in hits with four, Andy Greene led in blocks with four and Hughes, Simmonds and Rooney led in takeaways with two apiece.
Next up, the Devils head down the Turnpike to take on the Flyers. This will be the Devils final meeting with Philadelphia this season. We will see you then right here.