The Devils knew coming into their game at the Bell Centre versus the Montreal Canadiens that the going would be rough. What they did not know was just how strange the going would get for both teams.
The Canadiens, one the of the National Hockey League’s best teams at home this year, had 1,999 wins at home in their history, covering their time in the NHA (the predecessor to the NHL) and the NHL – and going back to their time at the Montreal Forum prior to moving to the Bell Centre. Would they come away with win 2,000 tonight, or would the Devils steal one from a team that has been almost unbeatable on home ice?
This would be the Devils’ lone trip to Montreal this season, as the Habs come to Newark for their two other meetings.
The Devils would be getting a bit of a break, it would seem, as two of Montreal’s top centermen, Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais were out of the lineup with knee injuries. The Devils were still without Pavel Zacha on the injury front. Healthy scratches for both teams were Greg Pateryn (Montreal) and Jacob Josefson and Jon Merrill (New Jersey).
Things did not look good coming into tonight as the Devils were 1-2-2 in their last five road games and Montreal is 5-0-2 in their last seven meetings with New Jersey.
The man who would try to reverse those trends for the Devils was Cory Schneider. He would end up making 44 saves on 49 Canadien shots. Most of those shots were hard ones to handle down low and down near the net, not from the perimeter.
Opposing Cory down the rink was Carey Price. The Habs’ goaltender, one of the best in the NHL right now made 19 saves on 21 Devils shots. But it was his temper that would play a big part in the game as we shall see later on.
Coach John Hynes started Devante Smith-Pelly and Michael Cammalleri (both former Habs) on the wings to begin the game. Smith-Pelly was making his return to the Bell Centre as a Devil, the first since his trade back last spring. Cammalleri needs one more point to reach 600 for his NHL career.
A wild first period got underway when Phillip Danault scored to make it 1-0, Montreal. Nathan Beaulieu and Andrew Shaw had the assists at 12:49 of the period. Immediately after the goal was scored, Toronto reviewed the goal and said that the goal was not scored off of a high stick, so the officials made that announcement. But, immediately after that, Hynes decided to challenge for goaltender interference. The replay – especially the overhead camera above the crease – showed that although Cory’s glove hand was bumped by the Canadiens’ player, impeding his chance to make the save, his glove hand was actually outside his goal crease, making it harder to call goalie interference. The goal stood and it was still 1-0 Montreal.
But the Devils would strike back when, at 16:19, Taylor Hall came out of the near corner, passing to PA Parenteau along the goal line. He fired a shot from the weird angle and Adam Henrique, crashing the net, buried it home.
Once again, Toronto took a look at it and said that Henrique did not kick the puck into the net, so the goal stood as far as the NHL command center was concerned. But Montreal coach Michel Therrien then decided to use their challenge saying Henrique had interfered with Carey Price. The referees conferred and referee Kelly Sutherland made the announcement that the puck was already entering the net prior to Henrique interfering with Price, so it was a good goal.
With that, both teams had used their coach’s challenges, lost and given up their timeouts.
Almost immediately after Henrique’s goal, the Canadiens retook the lead when Torrey Mitchell scored his first of two on the night at 17:15 from Brendan Gallagher and Zach Redmond. It was 2-1 Montreal and things were about to get controversial.
Following the goal, Kyle Palmieri was crashing the net on what seemed like a routine play. He was nudged from behind by the Montreal defender and fell, sliding into Price’s knee (a knee that was injured last season – causing him to miss almost the entire season). Price, taking umbrage to his knee being taken out as it was, immediately started throwing punches to Palmieri with his blocker. One punch connected to Palmieri’s head while the other three landed on his ribs.
In the end, the Devils would come out with a power play, as Palmieri was given two minutes for goalie interference while Price received a double minor for roughing.
Where the controversy comes in is that, according to a graphic shown on MSG, citing rule 51.3 in the NHL rulebook, Price should have actually received a match penalty (and been tossed from the game) due to hitting Palmieri in the head with his blocker with intent to injure. Price was not thrown out, and in fact the incident occurred at an opportune time for the Habs goalie. The penalties were called at 19:42, essentially giving him the intermission to cool down and not do anything else stupid.
As mentioned, though, the Devils would have the majority of their power play on fresh ice in the second period, although they would not convert it. Price may be looking at further discipline from the NHL down the road, although, as Palmieri pointed out in the post-game interviews, it will not help the outcome of this game.
After all of that, the first period took almost an hour to play in real time due to the challenges and the officials’ conferences.
The lone goal of the second period saw Artturi Lehkonen putting Montreal up 3-1 when he scored from Shaw and Danault at 9:59.
The third period saw the Devils fall further behind when Max Pacioretty intercepted a Devils’ clearing attempt just 45 seconds into the frame and beat Cory to give Montreal the 4-1 advantage. The goal was unassisted.
The Devils would make things a little bit more respectable when Torrey Mitchell was called for holding against Palmieri at 2:46. Palmieri made a good play to take the penalty in the Montreal zone, as he kept his legs moving throughout the play.
With the Devils now on the power play, Palmieri fired a shot from the far faceoff circle. The rebound came out to Henrique and he gathered it, making a nifty backhand pass to Taylor Hall, who was sneaking in behind the play. It was now 4-2 Montreal. On the night, the Devils were 1-for-3 on the power play while they kept the Habs 0-for-2 with the extra attacker.
But any hope the Devils would have at another Nashville-style comeback were dashed when, at 15:49, Mitchell scored his second of the game from Gallagher and Paul Byron to make the score 5-2.
And that was how it would end: 5-2.
The Devils will now look to get back on the winning side of things as they head home for a rare Prudential Center game in December. They will face the St. Louis Blues tomorrow night, making this the back end of a back-to-back.
Also, congratulations to Albany Devils head coach Rick Kowalsky, who was recently named to the ECHL Hall of Fame.