The refrain that serenades the Devils as they get ready to go on the PK from the upper levels of the Rock is a droning horn sound followed by the chant “kill.” That refrain was met successfully against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night, April 3, in some crucial situations, earning the Devils two points against a tough and desperate Habs club.
The Devils were coming in on a six game losing streak, including overtime losses on March 26 against the Capitals and March 31 against the Blue Jackets. Things did not look particularly good as the Canadiens came into the Prudential Center. The Habs are currently first in the Atlantic Division, battling the Rangers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and had already clinched a playoff spot.
The Devils would get on the board first as Stefan Matteau scored his first of the season (and second of his NHL career) off assists from Adam Larsson and Andy Greene at 9:51 of the first period. After that, Montreal took over the period. The Devils’ penalty kill got its first test when Jon Merrill went off for interference at 14:32. Seven seconds later, Tomas Plekanec put Montreal on the board on a power play goal off assists from Sergei Gonchar and Brendan Gallagher. Jeff Petry scored unassisted for the Canadiens at 16:42 of the first to give the Habs a 2-1 lead going into the first intermission.
The Devils would tie things up 4:37 of the second when Reid Boucher scored his first of the year (from Merrill and Steve Bernier) and from there, the defense took over.
The Devils had their first successful kill when Adam Larsson went off for holding at 8:40 of the second. New Jersey actually went on its only power play of the game in the second when Alex Galchenyuk went off for interfering with Tuomo Ruutu at 12:12. They did not convert on that power play opportunity. The Devils had two shots on the power play on the night.
Things got wild when Scott Gomez took a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for elbowing Alexei Emelin at 14:38 of the second. This was in retaliation for a hit on Gomez earlier in the play. Gomez reacted and the Devils had to kill off a five minute 5-on-4. They did successfully, in what was a major turning point for the Devils.
The third period saw a 4-on-4 situation when both Petry and Matteau went off for roughing 8:25 in. But the Devils next test came at 14:11 when Matteau got nabbed for delay of game. Now down 5-on-4, the Devils were in the middle of a successful kill when Andy Greene got called for a (borderline) tripping call against former Islander P.A. Parenteau at 15:38. The Devils now had to kill a 5-on-3 for about 30 seconds. They were again successful. The period ended with the scored tied at two and with that, the teams were headed to a 4-on-4 overtime session.
With the teams going back-and-forth in their scoring chances, overtime was a spirited affair. The Devils seemed to be in business until 2:39 into the 5:00 period when Greene went off for tripping in a scary play that saw Alex Galchenyuk’s skate blade come up and almost cut Greene’s face. Now the Devils penalty kill faced a 4-on-3 in overtime. With some key saves from goaltender Keith Kinkaid, who made 33 saves on the night, the Devils got out of the jam and the teams headed to a shootout.
In the first round of the shootout, both Boucher of the Devils and Galchenyuk of the Habs missed the net. Jacob Josefson converted for the Devils in the second round, while Kinkaid stoned David Desharnais of the Canadiens. Patrik Elias sealed the deal for the Devils by scoring in the third round to send Devils fans home happy with a 3-2 win.
Overall, the Devils penalty kill kept the Canadiens to nine shots in six power play opportunities, including eight shots in 5-on-4 situations and one shot in the 4-on-3. The Devils penalty kill was even more impressive when you factor in that for two kills, they were without Andy Greene, one of the team’s most valuable PK men. Kinkaid was certainly a main part of this, coming up big when he needed to en route to being named the game’s first star by attending media.
Although it might be a little bit late, the Devils have really come into their own on special teams. Their penalty killing units alone helped them gain two points where they might not have had any business being in the game in the first place.