Depleted Devils Clobbered by Habs

In the final meeting of the season between the Devils and the Montreal Canadiens, the Devils were looking to complete a season sweep in what has been a lost year for both teams.

The Habs, however, got the final revenge when they defeated the Devils 7-4 at Prudential Center tonight with the Devils losing streak now extending to five games.

The Devils were without a handful of injured players. Nathan Bastian, Jimmy Vesey and Jack Hughes are now all out with injuries with Hughes being shut down for the season. Vesey had imaging done on his knee and, although his injury was described as “not that bad,” he will be missing some time. Miles Wood was also out, sitting to rest as a bit of maintenance as he slowly makes his full return from his hip surgery.

Jon Gillies, Colton White and Mason Geertsen were the healthy scratches.

Forwards AJ Greer and Fabian Zetterlund, recently called up from AHL Utica were in the lineup tonight for New Jersey with both contributing – including Greer scoring his first goal as a New Jersey Devil.

In goal, the Devils started former Canadien Andrew Hammond, making his second start as a Devil against his most recent former team. He stopped 13 of the 19 total shots he saw for a .684 save percentage on the night. All of those shots came at five-against-five as the Habs did not have a power play on the night.

After Hammond let in Montreal’s sixth goal, Nico Daws came in to play the remaining 18:34 of the game. He stopped six of the seven shots he saw for an .857 save percentage. Those also all came at even strength.

Montreal finished the game with a total of 26 shots against the two New Jersey goaltenders.

The Canadiens went with Jake Allen between the pipes and he kept his career record against the Devils perfect. He stopped 33 of the 37 total Devils shots for a .892 save percentage. He turned aside all three Devils power play shots and 30 of their 34 shots at even strength. As a team, the Devils went 0-for-2 on power play opportunities.

The Devils were back in black again for the third straight game – the final of their four game homestand.

They were also looking for their first win since knocking off the Habs back on March 27 3-2.

Montreal, though, was hoping to get off to a very quick start and they would.

Just 4:35 into the game, the Canadiens made it 1-0 when Cole Caufield gained the Devils zone and dished off to Rem Pitlick on the left wing. Pitlick made a cross-ice pass to Nick Suzuki, who sort of flubbed his shot and the result was a knuckleball that beat Hammond.

Montreal had the lead and, in a pattern that would repeat itself all night, they did not take long to add another.

At the 6:41 mark of the first, Corey Schueneman, a defenseman, pinched in low and won a puck battle in the near corner. He gave it to Jake Evans, who was covering for him at the near point. Evans took a big shot that may have tipped in off of a Devil in front, but either way, went high on Hammond, beating him top shelf. Mike Hoffman had the secondary assist and it was now 2-0 Montreal.

Exactly 30 seconds later, though, at the 7:11 mark of the first, Tomas Tatar, the former Hab, got the Devils on the board. Damon Severson got the puck down to Dawson Mercer in the far corner. Mercer centered to Tatar in the slot and Tatar’s quick release beat Allen to cut the Montreal lead to 2-1.

Severson, with that assist, established a new career high for himself with his 30th helper on the season.

That, however, was not the score we were going to have going into the second period since Caufield was about to do his thing.

At the 13:44 mark of the first, Suzuki created a turnover in the Montreal zone. He then made an absolutely beautiful outlet pass, saucering the puck right onto the stick of Caufield. Caufield got in all alone on Hammond and snapped a shot by the beleaguered Devils goalie to make it 3-1 Canadiens.

In the second period, Greer made his presence known as he scored his first as a Devil 15 minutes into the second.

This one saw Michael McLeod settle the puck down at the far faceoff circle and then spin around away from the Montreal defense to gain some time and space. He then fed Greer, who attempted a wraparound. Greer’s power move saw the shot go off of Canadiens defenseman David Savard’s stick and up and over Allen’s mask and in.

Ryan Graves – who assisted on Greer’s only other NHL goal while both were with the Colorado Avalanche – had the secondary assist and the goal made it 3-2 Habs.

But one minute and twenty seconds later, Montreal doubled their lead again.

On that one, Chris Wideman passed from the point to Joel Armia in the middle of the Devils zone. Armia collected off of his skate and in one move gained a step on PK Subban by stepping around him. He then fired a shot under the crossbar and down by Hammond to make it 4-2.

Brendan Gallagher had the secondary assist on that goal, which would take us to the third period at 4-2.

The third period began with a succession between the teams in the first 1:53 of the frame.

Wideman started things off 1:11 in when Montreal won a faceoff deep in the Devils zone. Christian Dvorak won the draw back to Kale Clague, who went D-to-D with Wideman. Wideman then threw the puck towards the Devils net and it went in off of Subban’s body to make it 5-2 Canadiens.

The second goal in the trio took place 15 seconds after the Wideman goal.

At 1:26 gone by, Wideman sprung Dvorak through the middle of the ice and he was in alone on a breakaway, scoring to make it 6-2. Clague had the secondary assist.

Following this goal, Hammond’s night was finished and Daws came on in relief.

The Devils responded right away following the goaltending change with Ty Smith scoring at the 1:53 gone by mark. Here Nico Hischier gained the Montreal zone and pulled the Habs defense in towards him, giving room to a trailing Smith.

Nico then dropped a pass to Smith, who sniped a shot past Allen to make it 6-3. Jesper Bratt had the secondary assist to end his point drought.

Things settled in for a while until halfway through when Bratt ended his goal scoring drought as well.

At the 10:59 gone by mark, Subban (who would not get an assist on the goal, but played a big part in making it happen) created a turnover in the neutral zone and moved the puck to Hischier. Hischier broke into the Montreal zone and made a drop pass to Bratt just inside the Canadiens blue line. Bratt passed to Tatar, who gave back to Hischier, who shot. Hischier’s rebound then came right to Bratt, who finished to cut the score to 6-4 Habs.

The Canadiens, though, would put the kibosh on the game at the 13:17 mark when Clague scored to ice it at 7-4.

Gallagher took a shot that rimmed around to Clague, the Canadien defenseman who was pinching into the Devils zone. He shot from a really sharp angle, from almost behind the Devils goal line. It beat Daws far post in a well-placed shot and that was that. Dvorak had the secondary assist.

In the final minutes, Rem Pitlick hit the post and Evans was stopped on a nice glove save by Daws after Evans stole the puck from Smith in the neutral zone and cut in alone with a good scoring chance.

But time ran out on the Devils and their 9-0-3 streak over their previous 12 games over the Habs. That was the longest active point streak the Devils had over any team over ten games but it was snapped tonight.

The Devils outshot the Habs 37 to 26 and were again beaten badly in the faceoff circle with a 43-percent team winning percentage.

McLeod led Devils centers with a personal winning percentage of 71-percent over his 10:30 of ice time.

The Canadiens accumulated four penalty minutes as a team while the Devils had zero. The Devils were outhit 21-17 and Montreal had 14 blocked shots to New Jersey’s nine. Team turnovers saw the Habs with a dozen while the Devils had ten.

Smith led the Devils skaters in total ice time with 22:13. Dougie Hamilton led in power play time amongst defensemen with 2:25 included in his 21:06 of total time.

Hischier led the forwards in total ice time with 19:39 – which included 2:13 of power play time – which was also a high in that regard for the forwards.

Hischier (two assists), Bratt (one goal, one assist) and Tatar (one goal and one assist) each had two points to lead the Devils in scoring on the night. Greer and Zetterlund, the new call ups (with Zetterlund playing in his first NHL game since November), each led in shots on goal with four. Hits were led by Hischier, McLeod, Greer, Zetterlund, Janne Kuokkanen and Hamilton who each had two. Smith led in blocks with three. Personal giveaways were led by Yegor Sharangovich, Pavel Zacha and Jesper Boqvist who each had two while personal takeaways were by Hischier with two.

Next up, the Devils start a five-game road trip out west starting in Dallas against the Stars.

Puck drop for that one is 2 PM ET on Saturday and the game is listed as being on MSG+ as of right now.

We will have coverage for you right here following the finish of that one as the Devils try to snap their losing streak.

And before we end for tonight, congratulations on a great season to Luke Hughes, Ethan Edwards and the University of Michigan Wolverines, who were eliminated earlier tonight from the 2022 NCAA Frozen Four at the TD Garden in Boston.

The University of Denver Pioneers will now move on to the National Championship game against either the University of Minnesota or Minnesota State after defeating the Wolverines in overtime in the first semifinal.

Here’s to even greater things for both Edwards and Luke Hughes as they begin to make their way towards a pro career and take another step towards the Devils and the NHL.

Devils Survive Habs in Shootout

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!