The Devils hosted the Montreal Canadiens tonight hoping to pick up a win to keep themselves in the Eastern Conference playoff race, a race that they are quickly falling out of with their current losing streak. And while they did pick up a point, they were unable to gain two as they fell to Montreal 4-3 in overtime. The Habs battled back from not one, but two two goal deficits in getting the victory.
It was Pride Night at the Rock tonight, as the Devils celebrated the LGBT community as all teams in the National Hockey League will or have done this season. It is part of the Hockey is for Everyone initiative. The team used special rainbow colored tape on their sticks during warmups and special t-shirts were sold in the arena.
In some roster moves, Pavel Zacha was put on injured reserve retroactive to February 21 due to his concussion diagnosis. Blake Coleman was recalled from Albany to fill in for him. PA Parenteau was also scratched, as he was injured when he was hit with a shot in the Rangers game, he finished that game but sat out this one. He is listed as day-to-day.
Another scratch for the Devils was Kyle Quincey, who was expecting to play when he got to the rink, but was told by General Manager Ray Shero that he was being held out because the Devils may be trading him prior to the March 1 trade deadline. The team did not want to risk him getting injured if they think they could deal him. Joe Blandisi slotted in for him. Seth Helgeson was the other healthy scratch for New Jersey while Brian Flynn, Michael McCarron and the newly-acquired from Dallas, Jordie Benn sat for Montreal.
The goaltending matchup saw Cory Schneider make 29 saves on 33 Canadiens shots for New Jersey. He had a .879 save percentage for the game. The Devils saw Al Montoya who made 34 saves on 37 shots for a .919 save percentage. The Devils have not seen Carey Price since the incident at Bell Centre when he pummeled Kyle Palmieri with his blocker. Price did sit on the Habs bench this time, instead of hiding in the tunnel. Montoya does not really see a lot of ice time, as his last win came on January 20 at Prudential Center against these Devils.
One other Devils injury occurred late in the first period, as Jacob Josefson was hurt then and did not return to the game. There was no word on what exactly happened to him yet.
For the Canadiens, if they were to lose in regulation to the Devils and the Senators beat the Lightning, Ottawa would take over the top spot in the Atlantic Division. Neither ended up happening, so the Atlantic Division standings remain the same for the time being.
The Devils got on the board first, scoring with just 19 seconds left in the first period. It came when Michael Cammalleri brought good pressure on the forecheck, getting Montreal defenseman Shea Weber to turn the puck over to Travis Zajac. Zajac then passed to Palmieri, who was cutting in towards the slot. He shot, beating Montoya to make it 1-0 Devils.
There were no goals in the second period, but Taylor Hall did have a partial breakaway late in the period that Montoya just got a piece of to put it over the crossbar. The Devils still had the 1-0 lead heading into the third period, and New Jersey is was 17-0-5 heading into this game when leading going into the final frame.
The Devils would finally double their lead at just 2:38 into the third. Joe Blandisi gave the puck to John Moore at the far point. Moore fired the puck, beating Montoya five hole to give the Devils a 2-0 lead. Damon Severson had the secondary assist.
But in what would become a trend for the night, the Canadiens got the goal back just 11 seconds later. Alexander Radulov scored from Alexei Emelin and Jeff Petry at 2:49 to cut the New Jersey lead in half.
The Devils scored again at the 7:54 mark of the third to make it 3-1. This was set up when Coleman used his speed to steal the puck, split two Montreal defensemen and drew a hooking penalty on Phillip Danault at 7:48. It took just six seconds into the power play for Travis Zajac to win the offensive zone draw, get it back to the left point. It was sent across to Palmieri at the right point who shot on the net. Miles Wood tipped it on goal, and his rebound was gathered by Zajac, who backhanded it by Montoya to make give the Devils back a two goal lead. Both teams went 1-for-2 on the power play and the Devils power play has produced a goal in 9 of their last 11 games.
But this two goal lead would only last 43 seconds. Max Pacioretty scored his 30th from Nathan Beaulieu and Alexander Radulov to make it 3-2 Devils. That was the beginning of Montreal’s comeback. They would score three unanswered to ultimately win the game.
First, late in the period, Montoya made a big save on Stefan Noesen one-on-one immediately after Cory made a big save at the other end.
Montoya was then pulled with about 1:40 left in the game. Taylor Hall made a nice play as the Devils cleared, beating the Montreal player back to negate an icing call. But it was for naught as Pacioretty scored his second of the game with just under a minute left in the game from Weber and Radulov. The Habs had erased another two goal deficit to tie things up at three and force overtime.
The extra period started out good for the Devils, as John Moore had a nice end-to-end rush to try to end things for New Jersey. He did not score and eventually, Damon Severson was called for an accidental hook to set up a Canadiens 4-on-3 power play.
With the extra skater, Alex Galchenyuk finished things for Montreal, scoring from Weber and Radulov. Amazingly, Radulov had factored into all four of the Canadiens’ goals on the night.
Now, the Devils have to put their second straight OT loss behind them as they travel to DC to take on the very powerful Washington Capitals. And the Caps got even more powerful as news broke as the Devils-Canadiens game ended that the St. Louis Blues had sent star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington. That game comes on Thursday, March 2 following the trade deadline. We will see what the Devils look like as they take on the Caps at the Verizon Center on Thursday night.