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.