It could have been a lot worse. The Devils fell in overtime to the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre 2-1 after being shutout by Carey Price through two periods and part of the OT period. But it could have been a lot worse than it was. The news came down today that Taylor Hall is day-to-day following his knee-on-knee hit with the Kings’ Kurtis MacDermid and did not make the trip with the team to Montreal. The Devils did say that there was no structural damage and it was a knee contusion, so they did dodge a bit of a bullet there.
But the Devils were still missing most of their offensive firepower: Kyle Palmieri has resumed skating with the team, but is still some time away from returning from his broken foot; Marcus Johansson was placed on IR, eligible to come off on Saturday, with his bruised ankle and now Hall is day-to-day with the knee contusion.
Filling in for Hall would be Nick Lappin from AHL Binghamton. He became the first forward call-up this season for New Jersey (Scott Wedgewood was a goalie call-up earlier in the season before he got traded to Arizona). Lappin played the majority of the night on a line with Brian Boyle and Jimmy Hayes. Other than that, the lineup remained largely the same, with Ben Lovejoy and Dalton Prout being the healthy scratches.
Between the pipes for the Devils was Cory Schneider. MSG’s Deb Placey reported that John Hynes was strongly hinting that should Cory play well tonight, he would end up getting both games of the back-to-back (the Devils have the Dallas Stars at home tomorrow night). He did, making 34 saves on 36 shots on goal by the Habs. Montreal had Price going for them. He had had a rough outing in his last start on Saturday, being pulled in that game against Edmonton after giving up four goals. He ended up making 31 saves on 32 shots, including stopping three shots while the Canadiens were shorthanded, which included a breakaway by Nico Hischier.
Cory began the game with a nice glove save right off the bat on Max Pacioretty. The Devils also got on the board early, with Stefan Noesen scoring at 1:21 into the first period. That goal came when Montreal was on a delayed penalty and the Devils had pulled Schneider for the extra attacker. The Devils played with the puck in their own end until the play developed. Pavel Zacha finally made the outlet pass to Jesper Bratt and Bratt gave to Andy Greene just inside the Habs’ blue line. He pushed forward to Noesen in the slot, who fired a wrist shot top shelf to beat Price and make it 1-0 Devils.
But that was it for the Devils’ scoring for the night. Will Butcher hit the post late first period, the first of a few that the Devils would nick. Finally, at 13:31 of the first period, the Habs tied things up when Andrew Shaw scored his eighth of the season from Jordie Benn and Phillip Danault. Interestingly, the Devils will see Benn’s brother, Jamie, when they play Dallas tomorrow night.
The Devils had a nice opportunity to regain the lead early in the second period when Byron Froese was called for tripping at 2:52 and then Karl Alzner went off for slashing at 3:47. The Devils would have 1:05 of 5-on-3 power play time. New Jersey had a lot of zone pressure throughout the entire man advantage, but ultimately the Habs killed things off. Just following that power play, there was a mad scramble in front of the Montreal net where the Devils somehow failed to score.
Overall, on the power play, both teams went 0-for-3. But that is where the similarities stopped. The Devils fired five shots on goal during their power play attempts while the Devils’ penalty kill completely stifled the Habs power play. The Canadiens ended up with no shots on the power play for the game.
Following that 5-on-3, the Devils had an attempt to score, but Blake Coleman hit the iron. The Devils would end the second period with 13 scoring opportunities on 12 shots.
Midway through the third period, Hischier broke in on a 2-on-1 with Coleman and ended up missing the net completely. It was a frustrating reminder that the Devils were missing some of their best offensive weapons.
With no scoring through the two remaining periods, it was on to overtime. It was there, just 1:52 in, that a Devils breakdown in their own zone allowed Tomas Plekanec to score to give Montreal the full two points. He got assists from Charles Hudon and Alex Galchenyuk.
The Devils had escaped with one point, at least and they did so while missing a guy like Hall. They also kept pace in the Metropolitan Division, staying in third place and in a playoff position, but teams like Philadelphia are creeping up, so their next homestand will be very crucial.
Individual stats saw Steven Santini lead in ice time with 21:54 (just narrowly edging out Sami Vatanen’s 21:43), Damon Severson lead in shots on goal with five (he was also named the game’s second star for his efforts), Severson and John Moore tying for the hits lead with five hits each and Greene leading in blocked shots with four.
Next up, the Devils faceoff with the Dallas Stars tomorrow night at Prudential Center. Dallas has been in the metropolitan area for the last week, so they are already in New Jersey waiting for the Devils. They have gotten wins over the Rangers in a shootout and the Islanders in regulation. It should be an interesting matchup and, hopefully, the Devils can pull out two points tomorrow night in the backend of a back-to-back.