Devils Feast on Habs in Thanksgiving Night Win

Happy Thanksgiving to all those in the United States!

The Devils were working this holiday, playing north of the border in Montreal in the only game scheduled this Thanksgiving. In four previous games played on Thanksgiving Day, the Devils were 1-2-1 (losing twice in regulation to the then-Phoenix Coyotes in 1998 and 1999, losing in overtime to Phoenix in 1996 and winning in 2000 in Los Angeles), tonight they notched their second win when playing on the holiday, defeating the Montreal Canadiens 6-4.

This was the second and final trip to Quebec for the Devils this season. They last played there on November 16, winning in OT. Since that game 12 days ago, the Canadiens have been winless in their last five, including a loss two nights ago, 8-1 to the Boston Bruins.

Carey Price was pulled in that game against Boston, but he had a chance to redeem himself tonight. He ended up making 29 saves on 34 Devils shots for an .853 save percentage in the losing effort. The Devils ended the game with 35 total shots, adding an empty net goal later on in the contest. Mackenzie Blackwood went for the Devils and turned aside 44 of 48 Habs’ shots for a .917 save percentage.

Sitting for the Devils tonight were John Hayden and Brett Seney up front and Mirco Mueller on the blueline. That meant that Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt slotted back in at forward, with both skating on the fourth line with Miles Wood as their left winger. On defense, Matt Tennyson was back in playing in place of Mueller.

The game began with a slightly scary moment, with Blackwood colliding with Montreal’s Nick Cousins behind his net. He got up slowly but remained in the game, going the distance.

The Devils’ birthday boy, Blake Coleman, playing on his 28th birthday, broke the scoreless tie at 7:19 of the first period when Travis Zajac lobbed the puck up to Nikita Gusev, springing Gusev and Coleman on a 2-on-1. Gusev dragged the puck behind him as he cut in, causing Montreal defenseman Shea Weber to commit to the shot. He then passed to Coleman, who shoveled it into the net for the 1-0 Devils lead.

But in a pattern that repeated itself a few times in the game, the Canadiens responded less than 30 seconds later (22 seconds to be exact at 7:41) when the Habs’ Tomas Tatar tipped the puck towards Blackwood’s net and eventually, Brendan Gallagher would jam it home from the side of the net. Phillip Danault had the primary assist on the goal and it was 1-1.

But before the first period was out, the Devils would retake the one goal edge. At 8:17, Coleman banked the puck up the boards to Gusev, who broke in on a partial 2-on-1 with Zajac. Gusev floated a pass to Zajac and Zajac batted the puck out of the air and past Price to make it 2-1.

The Devils had the one goal lead going into the second frame and this would see more of the back-and-forth action that was prevalent all night.

First, Jesperi Kotkaniemi knotted the game up at two just 1:40 into the middle period. Max Domi threw the puck on net and the rebound came to Kotkaniemi in the slot. He scored and it was 2-2. Weber had the secondary assist on Kotkaniemi’s third of the season.

But the Devils fought back to retake the single goal advantage. Miles Wood came off the bench on a change and took a stretch pass from Pavel Zacha. He cut in all alone and scored five-hole on Price to make it 3-2 Devils. The goal came at 3:16 of the second and Will Buicher had the other assist.

Montreal’s Joel Armia would tie things back up at 9:02 of the second. Again, Kotkaniemi threw the puck at the net, but the shot never gets there, instead it comes to the stick of Victor Mete. He gets it to Armia who scored his eighth of the season to level the game at three apiece.

Once again, though, the Devils would retake the lead before the period was through. This time it was Jesper Boqvist, notching his second in as many games, who scored. It came when Kyle Palmieri got the puck to Nico Hischier, who gained the zone and fired high on Price. The rebound bounced over a Devils’ player’s stick on the doorstep, but landed on Boqvist’s. He shot, beating Price to make it 4-3 Devils going into the second intermission.

Price did make a nice glove save on Palmieri very late in the third, robbing the Devils’ forward of a sure goal with his left hand.

The Devils took a brief two-goal lead at the 8:21 mark of the third period. It came off the stick of Damon Severson when Coleman worked the puck out of the Devils’ zone to Gusev. Severson jumped up into the rush when he took the puck from Gusev and was off on a 2-on-1 with Zajac. With Zajac being on his off-wing on the rush, Severson elected to shoot, beating Price stick-side to make it 5-3 Devils.

But that two-goal lead would last all of 16 seconds. Jeff Petry dropped to Mike Reilly into the Devils’ zone. Reilly elected to go around the net, trying to stuff it by Blackwood on the wraparound. Blackwood made the save, but the rebound came to Artturi Lehkonen, who fired it home to cut the Devils’ lead back to one as it was 5-4 now. It was the second time tonight that the Habs had scored within 30 seconds of the Devils scoring.

Montreal would pull Price with about 1:25 to go in regulation and Coleman would take a pass off the rush from Zajac to score into the empty net, making it 6-4 (our final) and giving Coleman his first four-point NHL game. Wayne Simmonds had the secondary assist.

It was a big night for the Coleman, Zajac and Gusev line, as Gusev also had a three-point night (three assists). Gusev would be named the game’s first star while Zajac was it’s third. Kotkaniemi of Montreal was the second star – he had a goal and an assist.

Neither team scored on the power play, with the Devils going 0-for-3 with three shots and the Habs going 0-for-2 with three shots as well.

The Canadiens won 58-percent of the game’s faceoffs, outhit the Devils by a wide margin of 38 to 15 and had less giveaways at 13 to the Devils’ 18. The Devils led in blocked shots with 25 to the Habs’ 12.

Individually, Sami Vatanen led in ice time with 23:28 (3:01 on the power play and 1:49 on the PK included) while Taylor Hall led the forwards with 19:09 (including 3:30 on the power play). Hall also led in shots on goal with five, PK Subban led in hits with three, Andy Greene led in blocks with six of the Devils’ team 25. Takeaways were led by Hall, Hischier, Zajac, Coleman, Palmieri, Jack Hughes, Boqvist, Butcher, Severson and Vatanen who each had one.

Next up, the Devils will look to build on this momentum when they take on the Rangers at home on Saturday. Puck drop for this game is 1 PM and we hope you will join us then for what should (hopefully) be a good matchup.

Happy Thanksgiving again to everyone.

Devils Win Second Straight as Palmieri’s Goal Lifts Them in OT

Following last night’s win over a tough Pittsburgh Penguins team, the Devils were right back in the lion’s den taking on a very good Montreal Canadiens team in Montreal tonight.

In one of the strangest games you will ever see, the Devils came away with the 4-3 overtime win courtesy of a feed from Taylor Hall and a Kyle Palmieri blast.

The Devils had one loss in their last six games versus Montreal. The changes to the lineup featured Jesper Boqvist moving out of the forward group in favor of John Hayden. Colton White was the other healthy scratch while Kevin Rooney remains injured and was a scratch.

It was Hockey Fights Cancer Night in Montreal and the pregame featured the fans being asked to turn on the flashlights on their phones and share in a moment of silence, which was done league-wide. It was a cool visual on TV with the flashlights illuminating the Bell Centre through the dark.

Each team had won the first half of a back-to-back and were trying to take the full four points on the weekend. The Devils went with Mackenzie Blackwood in goal for the fourth straight time, as he has all six of the Devils’ wins this year. He stopped 31 of the 34 shots he saw from the Habs for a .912 save percentage.

Montreal threw out former Devil Keith Kinkaid. He turned aside 39 of the 43 shots the Devils had for a .907 save percentage. Kinkaid was 1-1-1 in his three starts for the Habs, but the Devils really peppered him, notching 20 shots in the first period. These 20 shots were the first time the Devils had thrown that much rubber at a goalie since last January 6 at Vegas, in the third period of that game.

Brendan Gallagher got the scoring started when he scored at the 18:41 mark of the first for the Habs. It came when Jeff Petry took the puck at the near faceoff circle and shot. That was tipped by Blackwood by Gallagher to make it 1-0 Canadiens. Tomas Tatar had the secondary assist.

But it would take exactly one minute, at the 19:41 mark for the Devils to tie things. This came off the stick of Nikita Gusev when the Devils kept the play moving down low and it came out to Blake Coleman in the slot. He made a nifty little pass to Gusev at the side of the net and he dunks it in to make it 1-1. Gusev had missed a grade A chance just moments before and it was nice to see him put it home on his second chance. The assist on this goal extended Coleman’s point streak to three games while Travis Zajac, who had the secondary, now has points in his last two games.

Montreal would retake the lead just 7:43 gone in the second period. Habs defenseman Cale Fleury scored his first NHL goal when he took the puck in the slot from Phillip Danault and stickhandled his way through the Devils defense. He shot upstairs on Blackwood to give Montreal the 2-1 lead.

Then the penalties started to be called.

After calling nothing through the first half of the game, the referees suddenly got their whistles out and the remaining portion of the game was a mishmash of 4-on-4’s, 5-on-3’s and other assorted combinations of power plays.

Nick Suzuki of the Canadiens took advantage on the power play first. He put Montreal up 3-1 when he scored from the side of the net, jamming it home from Max Domi and Shea Weber to put the Habs up by two at the 18:42 mark of the second. This one was at 5-on-3 for the Habs as PK Subban was called for a slash at 17:47 and Damon Severson for a hook at 18:18.

But the Devils would come right back again. With about 1.1 seconds left, on a shorthanded 2-on-1, Nico Hischier finished off a feed from Pavel Zacha and scored to make it 3-2 before the second intermission. That was the Devils’ first shorthanded goal of the season.

The third period, as noted above, was really chaotic in terms of penalties called. There were, in total, 20 minutes of combined minor penalties between the two teams in this frame.

The Devils were the beneficiaries as Wayne Simmonds scored on the man advantage at 15:12 to tie the game at three. Domi had taken an interference penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for brushing Coleman’s stick away when he dropped it on a play near the Devils’ blue line. In the ensuing power play for the Devils, during which Palmieri was assessed a cross-checking penalty against Petry to make it 4-on-4 for a time, the Devils made a tic-tac-toe passing play to Simmonds. He was camped out at the right side of the net and took a beautiful pass from Hall, burying it to make knot the game up at three.

The Devils had not won a game this year in which they had trailed by more than one goal. Things seemed to be business as usual as Montreal seemingly scored on a goal mouth scramble. The referee made no initial signal that there was a goal as he had seemed to whistle the play dead.

He then signaled a good goal, following a conference with the other officials and things seemed to be headed to a 4-3 loss to the Devils (the goal came with about 47 seconds left on the clock). John Hynes could not challenge the call for goalie interference as it was within the final minute of the game, when all challenges have to be initiated by Toronto.

And sure enough, Toronto did challenge it. The initial thought of all of those watching was that goalie interference would be the Devils’ saving grace. It looked like the player who scored fell on top of Blackwood not allowing him to make the save. The final verdict, however, was that the puck was “kicked” into the net by the Habs’ player with his knee, disallowing the goal and reverting the score to 3-3.

It was a crazy sequence and one that is tough to really describe, but we were playing on and the Devils still had life.

Once time ran out on that insane third period, we were off to overtime.

And here, penalties would once again play a part. Just 44 seconds into the extra session, Danualt was called for hooking against Hall as Hall dashed up the left wing boards. The Devils used their timeout, regrouped and, when the play resumed again, Severson took a shot that went wide and was collected by Hischier. Hischier gave to Hall along the far half wall and he found a nice seam to Palmieri, who simply blasted the puck by Kinkaid to give the Devils the W.

Overall, the Devils were 2-for-6 on the power play, including the game winner, with four shots. They also had the shorty goal and two shots shorthanded. Montreal was 1-for-5 with four shots on the PP and one shot shorthanded.

The Devils won only 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs and were outhit 31 to 22. They did have more blocks than the Habs at 20 to Montreal’s eight and had less giveaways at four to the Canadiens’ 17.

Individually, PK Subban led the skaters in time on ice with 23:47 (including 49 seconds of power play time and 1:56 of penalty killing). Hall led the forwards with 21:09 (including 4:49 of PP time). Will Butcher led in shots on goal with six, Coleman led in hits with five, Andy Greene led in blocked shots with seven and Severson led in takeaways with three.

Next up, the Devils will return home to take on the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. Can the Devils continue their resurgence and beat the Bruins in their second meeting of three this season? We will find out on Tuesday.