The Habs were looking to play spoiler against the Devils on Sunday night. While they got the lead, they weren’t able to hold on the rest of the way as they eventually fell 2-1.
Claude Julien made a trio of lineup changes for this one. Carey Price got the start between the pipes after being off on Saturday and in doing so, he tied Jacques Plante for the most games played in a Montreal uniform with 556. Up front, Kerby Rychel made his Canadiens debut, taking the place of an injured Charles Hudon while Mike Reilly returned on the back end in place of David Schlemko.
The first half of the first period wasn’t particularly riveting. Montreal could not sustain any offensive zone time whatsoever while the Devils were able to control the puck more often but couldn’t really muster up any real chances either. Basically, it was a typical Montreal-New Jersey game.
In the second half of the frame, the Habs picked up their play and it wasn’t the usual suspects getting it done either. Logan Shaw had a spinning shot in tight on Keith Kinkaid that may not have been the best of scoring chances but it looked nice if nothing else. Moments later, Daniel Carr hit the crossbar. Rychel then got involved, driving the puck, getting tripped up by Kinkaid but still managed to throw the puck up front for a good chance before the Devils touched up.
On the power play from Kinkaid’s tripping penalty, the opposite of Saturday night happened. New Jersey got a break off a Nikita Scherbak turnover but wasn’t able to get a shot off thanks to a good defensive play from Reilly. Play went the other way and Artturi Lehkonen set up Carr who fired a precise shot top-shelf to open the scoring with just eight seconds remaining. New Jersey unsuccessfully challenged for offside, sending the home side back to the man advantage to start the second. Shots on goal in the period were 8-7 for the visitors.
The Habs were able to get much going with the man advantage to start the middle stanza although Jeff Petry, Jonathan Drouin, and Alex Galchenyuk had a couple of good passing plays. They weren’t able to build much in the way of momentum off of that as the game settled back into its monotony from the first period although Noah Juulsen and Artturi Lehkonen threw a couple of hits.
Nicolas Deslauriers got a little over-aggressive on Sami Vatanen just past the seven-minute mark of the period, sending the Devils to their second power play of the night. The Habs did a nice job of keeping New Jersey to the perimeter and they didn’t get much in the way of chances. A little after that, there was a stretch of more than five minutes without a whistle but it was just a whole lot of skating back and forth with nothing really happening.
Seconds after that stretch ended, Jordie Benn picked up a holding penalty to send the Devils back to the power play. This time, they were able to get some shots through but Price held the fort to keep Montreal’s lead intact heading into the third. The shots were a bit more tilted in New Jersey’s favour in the frame (10-8) but hardly any of those would be called quality chances.
That lead didn’t last long into the third, however. On the first shift of the period, Nico Hischier redirected a Vatanen point shot past Price to tie the game. Shortly after that, Karl Alzner took a high-sticking penalty to send New Jersey to the power play although Montreal was able to kill it off. Hischier was busy later on in the period as well, hitting the post and also being stopped on a breakaway.
Most of the next ten minutes were spent in Montreal’s end but they did get a big chance later on as the Devils took a too many men penalty and then a minute later, Ben Lovejoy was called for cross-checking to give the Habs a 5-on-3. The home side had their chances but couldn’t beat Kinkaid and as the first penalty expired, Travis Zajac blocked a Petry point shot and sprung Taylor Hall (who was serving the penalty) on a breakaway. He made no mistake beating Price low to give the Devils the lead. Any hopes of a late comeback were quickly thwarted by Deslauriers taking his second penalty of the night with just over two minutes left. It begs the question, what was he doing on the ice with that little time left when the team was down a goal?
Price made 29 saves in a losing effort while Kinkaid turned aside 25 shots. The Habs technically won the special teams battle as they were 1/4 with the man advantage while New Jersey was 0/5. However, that shorthanded goal against really proved costly.
HW Habs 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star: Daniel Carr – Carr was one of the few players who really got things going offensively. He started the game on the third line but was quickly demoted back to the fourth but it didn’t seem to slow him down. Carr has been quieter as of late so it was nice to see him bounce back somewhat.
Stats: 1 goal, even rating, 2 shots, 1 hit, 11:43 TOI
2nd Star: Noah Juulsen – He had one notable slip-up in the third when Hischier got behind him for a breakaway but he was otherwise solid. He kept Hall in check for the most part, threw several hits, had a nice end-to-end rush, and did yeoman’s work shorthanded. It was a very strong game overall for the rookie.
Stats: 0 points, even rating, 1 shot, 6 hits, 3 blocks, 20:22 TOI (6:28 shorthanded – game high)
3rd Star: Carey Price – Price wasn’t tested a lot early on but made the saves he needed to. He had no chance on the redirect from Hischier and Hall on a breakaway is going to score more often than not. Price has had quite a few rough games in the second half (out of not a whole lot played) but this certainly wasn’t one of them.
Stats: 29 saves on 31 shots, 2.03 GAA, .935 SV%
Honourable Mention: Mike Reilly – After being a (surprising) scratch on Saturday, Reilly turned in a steady effort overall. He made a nice play on New Jersey’s 2-on-1 in the first that led to Montreal’s only goal and skated his way out of trouble a couple of times. Nothing flashy but a decent effort overall and a good response to being benched. Games like that will help his push for a roster spot next season.
Stats: 1 assist, even rating, 2 PIMS, 1 hit, 2 blocks, 16:39 TOI