Jack Hughes had two goals and Yegor Sharangovich had the game-winner as the Devils downed the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in a shootout at Prudential Center tonight.
It was a wild ride of a game that involved quite a few hit posts and crossbars in addition to some fine goaltending.
The Devils were returning to the friendly confines of the Rock after yet another disappointing road loss in Washington last night.
But there would be a major change in the lineup for tonight. A weapon that the Devils were getting back that they did not have in the first half of the back-to-back.
Yes, after getting injured this past October during a preseason game at the Capitals and having right hip surgery a month or so later in November, Miles Wood made his 2021-22 season debut tonight. He skated on the third line with Jesper Boqvist centering and Nathan Bastian on the right-wing.
Wood had a pretty solid game, not looking like he missed a lot in his 11:46 of total ice time. His first shift in particular was shown isolated on camera by MSG+2 and he showed a lot of good energy and seemed extremely mobile in his skating – something that might be of concern when dealing with something like a hip injury.
He ended up with two penalty minutes on the night (a second period high-sticking penalty). He also recorded a shot on goal, two hits, a blocked shot and a turnover. He got a bit of special teams time (26 seconds on the power play and 32 seconds on the penalty kill) as he begins to really get back into game shape.
Other lineup changes included defenseman Colton White as a healthy scratch and Ty Smith sitting again in favor of Kevin Bahl slotting back in on the third defensive pairing with PK Subban. Mason Geertsen was a healthy scratch up front while Pavel Zacha is still day-to-day and did not play today and Andreas Johnsson was out with a “non-COVID-related illness.”
In goal, the Devils continue to lean heavily on Nico Daws, who made 31 saves on 33 total Montreal shots for a .939 save percentage. He stopped their lone shorthanded shot and all nine of their power play tries. The Habs were 0-for-5 on the power play as a team as the Devils kept giving the league’s 30th ranked power play a lot of chances. At five-versus-five, Daws stopped 23 of Montreal’s 28 shots.
The Canadiens countered with Sam Montembeault. Montembeault made 30 saves on 32 total tries by New Jersey for a night’s work of .938. The Devils did not register a shorthanded shot and Montembeault let in one of their two power play shots (the Devils were 1-for-2 as a team on the man advantage as well). At five-on-five, he made 31 saves on 36 shots.
As noted, both goalies got a lot of help from their red metallic friends as well.
This was the first meeting in over two years between these teams in Newark and the first meeting since Martin St. Louis took over behind the Canadiens bench.
The Devils wore camo-inspired warmup jerseys pregame in honor of Military Appreciation Night.
The Habs started with a bang and Daws was sharp early. He stopped Nick Suzuki right off the bat on a great chance for Suzuki.
The Devils would counter with great chances. Midway through the period, Damon Severson sprang Jesper Bratt for a breakaway off of a faceoff deep in the Devils zone. Bratt was stopped by Montembeault, however.
But New Jersey would break through before the end of the first frame when Jack Hughes connected with 44 seconds remaining in the first period.
On this goal, the puck was in deep in Montreal’s zone and Montembeault came slightly out in front of his net to play it. Sharangovich, hard in on the forecheck, skated in and put pressure on the Montreal goalie as Sharangovich curled away from him.
This caused Montembeault to panic as he had to make a very quick decision on what to do with the puck.
He ended up turning it over to Hughes, who was coming up the right side. He got the pass and just threw it back on net, scoring to make it 1-0 just as we were headed into the first intermission.
The goal was officially unassisted but Sharangovich played a huge part in helping to create it.
The Devils doubled that lead later on in the second period. It began when the Habs’ Josh Anderson was called for a penalty which put the Devils up a man at the 12:21 mark.
Hughes was all over here as well.
Late in the power play, he hit the post and it seemed that Montreal would kill things off with that being the Devils’ best chance.
But, at the 14:16 mark, with six seconds left on the penalty, the Devils got the puck to Severson at the point. Severson then hit Bratt on the near side. Bratt found a cross seam to Hughes, who simply tapped the puck into the open side of the cage on the far side.
The Devils utilized great puck retrieval as they kept play going in the Montreal zone and pinned the Habs in. The Canadiens’ PK unit ended up spending more than a full minute on the ice by the time the goal was scored.
It was Hughes’ second of the game.
But the Habs remained in the game and hung on showing that they were not the pushovers that the Devils played last month. That began to pay off for them at 15:35 of the second period when Jonas Siegenthaler was called for interference to put Montreal up a man for two minutes.
Chris Wideman got the puck late in the power play at the point. He moved it to Jesse Ylonen at the far half wall. Ylonen took a shot that was headed wide of net. Lucky for him, Josh Anderson was in front of Daws and was able to get his stick on it and tip it in to cut the Devils lead to 2-1.
Officially, the goal came at 17:36 so the power play had just expired, meaning Anderson’s goal was an even strength goal. For all intents and purposes, because the power play was over only for a second, there was no way that Siegenthaler could get back on the ice and into the play that quickly so the Devils were still pretty much shorthanded.
Either way, that was how we would head into the third period.
That third period featured some great goaltending including Daws making a great save midway through on Suzuki. It was off a scramble in front of the goal mouth and Suzuki had the entire upper half of the net to shoot at. Daws just got his glove on it and the puck sailed over the top of the net.
The Canadiens, however, would end up with the equalizer when Montembeault was pulled just under a minute to go in regulation for the extra attacker.
It would pay off when, with 41 seconds left in the game, Rem Pitlick scored to tie it and force overtime.
The Habs won a faceoff in the Devils zone cleanly and worked the puck around the horn until it eventually got to Cole Caufield. Caufield passed low to Christian Dvorak, who sent to Pitlick at the far side of the net. Pitlick simply tapped the puck in to tie the game at two.
When time expired, the teams were off to OT, the Devils looking to improve their OT record to 6-1 while the Habs were looking to get to 4-9.
But the posts and crossbars had other ideas.
The first instance occurred when Bratt hit the crossbar about halfway through overtime.
Then, with 53.4 seconds to go in the extra period, the Devils flubbed a pass back towards Daws and Mike Hoffman of the Canadiens jumped on the loose puck. He was off on a breakaway and beat Daws.
The goal was waved off on the ice and the goal light never came on, but play was whistled down so that the play could be reviewed.
Replays showed that the call on the ice was correct: no goal. The shot actually rang off of the inside of both posts and came out after hitting the inside of the near post. It never actually crossed the goal line when it came out.
With that, play was resumed and then Hischier had a chance going the other way. He made a power move cutting in on Montembeault… and hit the left post.
Soon after, the buzzer sounded and it was to a shootout.
Round one began with Tomas Tatar trying too many moves and simply running out of room. Caufield then scored on Daws five-hole.
Bratt scored when he just snapped the puck stick side by Montembeault. Pitlick rounded out the round and converted for the Habs when he used a backhand/forehand move and put the puck in the net before running himself into the post. After a very quick review, the goal counted and it set up round three.
This round began with Hughes using his slick hands to get a shot off and beat Montembeault top shelf. Suzuki then missed wide.
Round four gave us Severson skating in and going to his backhand only to have it poke checked off of his stick by Montembeault. Dvorak was up for the Habs and Daws stopped him.
Round five saw Hischier turned aside by a Montembeault blocker save and Joel Armia hitting the post to deny Montreal the tie.
Round six had the Devils turning back to a defenseman when Dougie Hamilton scored when he snapped a shot along the ice and five-hole to beat Montembeault. That meant it was up to Hoffman to keep the Canadiens in it again. His wrist shot beat Daws glove side to do so and it was on to round seven.
Sharangovich kicked off that round by skating in on the rough ice and just heaving a shot by Montembeault to put the Devils in the lead again. That left the game on Paul Byron’s stick.
On Byron, Daws came up big when he just got a bit of his blocker on a shot that went up and over his net to deny the Canadiens and give the Devils the 3-2 home win.
The Devils were just edged in shots as Montreal outshot them 33-32. New Jersey also did not do very well in the faceoff circle, winning just 40-percent of their draws.
Hischier led the centers with a 52-percent faceoff winning percentage over his 24:11 of total ice time.
In team penalty minutes, the Devils racked up ten while the Canadiens finished with four. The Devils did outhit the Habs 25 to 20 but had less blocked shots as Montreal finished with 16 to the Devils’ 11. Team giveaways saw the Devils with 16 while the Canadiens had ten.
In terms of ice time, Severson led the Devils with a whopping 30:56 of total ice time. Yes, he logged more than a half an hour of ice time over the 65 minutes of play. This included 3:29 on the power play and 6:54 on the penalty kill – both leading times for the defensemen.
Hughes led the forwards in total time with 24:50 (including 3:29 on the power play – which he shared as the forwards leader with Hischier, Bastian and Bratt. They, along with Severson were all on power play unit one). Hischier led the forwards in PK time with 4:44 to go with his 3:29 of power play time (as mentioned) and his total time of 24:11 TOI.
Hughes led the Devils in points with his two goals and in shots on goal with seven. Hamilton led in hits with six. Siegenthaler led in blocks with four. Hughes led in personal giveaways with three and in takeaways with four.
As you can see, Hughes – who was named the game’s first star – was all over the place in this game, just quietly dominating.
Next up, the Devils will not play again until Thursday, March 31 when they visit Boston to take on the Bruins. It is another challenge for the Devils as they face another playoff bound team.
That game is at 7 PM on Thursday and will be shown on MSG+ here in the New York/New Jersey area.
We will have coverage for you following the conclusion of that game.
Until then, enjoy your week everyone!