The New Jersey Devils were coming off of a frustrating 1-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings and traveled to Montreal to try to take advantage of a weakened Canadiens club.
Many, including MSG+ analyst Ken Daneyko felt that the Habs were vulnerable. In part because they had not played at home since December 17 (Cirque du Soleil had set up shop in Bell Centre for the holidays) and in part because of a frustrating loss of their own to the Flyers last night.
Things did not go as planned, though and the Devils fell by a score of 2-1, taking the season series from New Jersey.
The injury bug has hit the Devils, as David Schlemko was hurt in practice yesterday and Tyler Kennedy was injured during the warmup for this game. Eric Gelinas and Tuomo Ruutu would be inserted into the lineup. One of the biggest injury hits to the Devils was John Moore going to the locker room in the first period. Moore is a power play specialist and a key part of the Devils’ special teams. Add them to the list that includes Patrik Elias, Jacob Josefson and Mike Cammalleri. Although Cammalleri is expected back for the Boston game on Friday at Prudential Center.
In some positive news for New Jersey, this game represented the 600th career game for captain Andy Greene and his 270th consecutive game. Congratulations to the captain, as he is a truly inspirational story: an undrafted player who has gone on to mean so much for his team on and off the ice.
Getting the start between the pipes for the Devils was newly named All-Star Cory Schneider. He would manage 23 saves on 25 shots. In net for Montreal was Princeton University product Mike Condon, who is still filling in for injured Carey Price and who is coming off of the 5-1 defeat of the Boston Bruins in the Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. He stopped 19 of 20 Devils shots on the night.
The Devils nearly got out of the first period without giving up a goal to the opposition, but with just a minute left, Max Pacioretty tipped a Tomas Plekanec shot by Cory to give the Habs a 1-0 lead. PK Subban had the secondary assist. The goal was a power play goal for Montreal when the Devils were assessed a bench minor for too many men on the ice at 17:57.
To add to that situation, the Canadiens would be going into the second period with almost an entire power play when Bobby Farnham was called for interference against Devante Smith-Pelly. Nothing came of that, but Montreal would have the all-important fresh sheet of ice.
Devils’ coach John Hynes actually used his coach’s challenge on that first goal, claiming goalie interference, but the replay showed that Pacioretty was not in Cory’s crease and did not interfere with him sufficiently enough to overturn the call on the ice. The Devils would be charged their timeout for losing the challenge.
The second period was a wild one. First, Ruutu was sent to the box for tripping just 5:45 into the period. During the Montreal power play, Travis Zajac was able to break up a play and sprung free on a breakaway. Subban was called for hooking trying to slow him up and went off at 6:45 to make it 4-on-4 for one minute and then give the Devils a power play for one minute. No scoring occurred on any of that.
Then, at 16:31, Jordin Tootoo was seemingly trying to clear a broken stick out of his path when he shot it accidentally at David Desharnais. Desharnais was awarded a penalty shot, but missed the net high and wide. Tootoo said later that he knew the rule and was just trying to move the stick out of the way. He had no intention to shoot it at Desharnais. It was the fourth penalty shot Schneider has faced this season so far.
Late in the second, Montreal’s Smith-Pelly took an interference call, putting the Devils on the power play. However, it was not the Devils who would benefit, but the Habs. Torrey Mitchell tipped a Paul Byron shot past Cory and Montreal was up 2-0 with the shorthanded goal.
The third period was where it seemed the Devils had broken through. Fifty seconds into the period, Mike Sislo dug the puck out of the corner and gave to Lee Stempniak along the boards who moved it to Greene at the point. The captain fired and the puck was redirected by Adam Henrique past Condon to cut the lead in half. It was the first Devils goal since the overtime winner against Dallas on Saturday.
But Montreal would seemingly answer right back. About three minutes later, Plekanec scored to give the Canadiens a 3-1 lead. However, the goal was immediately waved off on the ice, the official saying it was played with a high stick. The replay from Toronto would confirm the call on the ice and it stood. The Devils had dodged a bullet.
It was not to be, though. The Devils would pull Schneider late in the third, but were never able to get things going and when an icing call was negated with seconds left on the clock, time simply ran out on New Jersey’s comeback.
But, banged up as the Devils may be, it’s no rest for the weary. They have the Boston Bruins at home on Friday. How will the Devils respond to two straight regulation losses? Will Mike Cammalleri be back in the lineup for New Jersey? These questions will find their answers on Friday.