The Habs were hoping to snap New Jersey’s nine-game win streak as they hosted the Devils on Tuesday. While they played well early, they faded as the game went along as the visitors skated away with a 5-1 victory.
Montreal made a pair of lineup changes for this one, both by necessity as Jonathan Drouin and Joel Armia were sidelined with upper-body injuries. That created a spot for Juraj Slafkovsky to return from his two-game suspension while Michael Pezzetta also got a chance to play as well. The team lined up as follows:
Caufield – Suzuki – Dach
Hoffman – Dvorak – Gallagher
Dadonov – Monahan – Anderson
Slafkovsky – Evans – Pezzetta
Guhle – Savard
Edmundson – Xhekaj
Harris – Kovacevic
Evgenii Dadonov came into this one more than due for a goal by now and he had a good chance at one on his first shift of the game less than 90 seconds into the game but Vitek Vanecek got a glove on it. Two minutes later, New Jersey got their first good chance as Miles Wood got around Johnathan Kovacevic with speed but Jake Allen was square to the shot.
The Devils got the first power play of the game when Arber Xhekaj was sent off for boarding Jesper Boqvist. There were multiple good looks early on with Allen down and out but he was able to get a piece of a shot while stretched out while the defence took care of the rest as the Canadiens got through it unscathed.
The transition game has been key for the Habs early on this season and they got a couple of chances near the midway mark of the period off those. First, Josh Anderson had a good slot shot off a nice passing play while a minute later, Nick Suzuki had a half-step on his defender but instead of trying to shoot, he opted for a pass to Cole Caufield that didn’t connect.
New Jersey is a team that attacks with speed and that gave Montreal some fits in the defensive zone as multiple turnovers led to some chances but Allen was up to the task.
With a little less than seven minutes left, the Habs got their first crack with the man advantage when Brendan Smith interfered with Mike Hoffman in front of the bench. However, they couldn’t get much going aside from a late Anderson shot. Not long after the power play ended, Christian Dvorak sent a good cross-ice feed for Pezzetta but Vanecek was there for the stop.
Brendan Gallagher isn’t known for his puck skills but with a minute to go, he made a nifty self-pass behind the net that fooled the defender, allowing him to send a pass out for Dvorak but Vanecek was there to make the stop. Both goalies were quite sharp in the opening frame, allowing no goals while the Canadiens held the advantage in shots at 15-11.
Kirby Dach was called for a trip on Jesper Bratt early in the second period. Allen made a nice sprawling stop midway through the advantage but it didn’t matter much in the end as 30 seconds later, Dougie Hamilton set up Jack Hughes in the left faceoff circle and he fired one past Allen to get the Devils on the board.
Montreal came close to tying it 90 seconds later when Jordan Harris snuck a shot through a Dadonov screen but while it beat Vanecek, it didn’t beat the post. That stung a bit more as a minute and a half after that, the Habs turned it over in the neutral zone, allowing Hamilton to skate in and roof one over Allen’s glove to double the lead.
They nearly added another one a minute later as Dach turned it over to Nico Hischier at the offensive blueline, sending the New Jersey captain in on a long breakaway but Allen was able to keep it out.
Back to Dadonov. He has had some bad bounces early on this season but he finally had one go his way. Just shy of the midway mark, Sean Monahan’s centring pass hit Yegor Sharangovich and bounced right to Dadonov. Vanecek was out of position with the pass changing trajectories and the Russian winger tapped it in for his first of the season. Slafkovsky had a good chance on a two-on-one 30 seconds later but wasn’t able to tie it up.
Both teams then missed good chances. Erik Haula had an open net but fired it wide and a minute later, Hoffman fired a hard one-timer on a two-on-one but it went wide. The Habs had another odd-man rush 30 seconds after that with Dadonov keeping the puck to take the shot but Vanecek made the stop.
Those missed chances proved costly as with four and a half minutes left, Allen was forced to play the puck. He sent it up the boards to Harris but the rookie wasn’t able to corral the puck and move it. Instead, Hughes stole it, skated in, and scored his second of the night to cap the scoring on an eventful second period. Shots on goal were 17-5 for New Jersey.
The third didn’t get off to a great start as Caufield had a bad turnover to Fabian Zetterlund. That was quickly turned around to Nico Hischier who set up Tomas Tatar for a one-timer that beat Allen. However, Martin St. Louis opted to challenge for offside as Jonas Siegenthaler’s pass went off Zetterlund and into the zone while Tatar was already in. The challenge was successful, giving the Habs some life. Or at least it should have.
Less than four minutes later, Caufield had another rough turnover in his own end, this time right to Nathan Bastian but Allen was able to stop his hard shot.
Just before the midway mark of the period, Anderson was slashed by Damon Severson on a partial breakaway. It probably could have been called a penalty shot but it wasn’t so instead, the Habs got their second power play of the game. The Devils had an early two-on-one and Montreal couldn’t do much of anything with the advantage.
Barely 20 seconds after the penalty ended, it was Gallagher’s turn for a bad turnover in the neutral zone. Dawson Mercer was the recipient and skated in on a breakaway. Allen made the initial stop but was out of position, allowing Bratt to bank the loose puck off the netminder and in.
With just over five minutes left, Anderson got around the defender and drove the net but couldn’t get the shot off before crashing into the side boards for good measure. The hustle was there but not the execution. St. Louis pulled Allen with 3:40 to go but the Habs couldn’t muster up much and in the dying seconds, John Marino was able to fire a long shot from the defensive faceoff dot into the empty net. The Devils held the shot advantage in the final frame as well by a count of 10-6.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Evgenii Dadonov – He was more than due for something to break his way after some tough luck early on this season. He got that bounce in this one for his first goal but he played with some good energy otherwise. It’s not going to be a matter of flipping the switch to turn him back into an impact player but this was a good step.
Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 4 shots, 15:12 TOI
2nd Star: Josh Anderson – His speed helped create three good scoring chances, one in the first and two in the third. He didn’t capitalize on any of them but in a game where New Jersey’s speed seemed to catch Montreal flat-footed on numerous occasions, plays like his helped to flip the script a little bit.
Stats: 0 points, even rating, 3 shots, 13:42 TOI
3rd Star: Jake Allen – The final numbers aren’t pretty but the Habs were giveaway machines in this one (21 feels low, to be honest) which had him hung out to dry way too many times. This one certainly wasn’t on him and he kept them in it longer than they probably should have been.
Stats: 4 GA on 38 shots, 4.27 GAA, .895 SV%
Honourable Mention: Jordan Harris – The miscue on Hughes’ second goal notwithstanding, Harris was arguably Montreal’s most effective defender in this one. The possession numbers were strong in large part to his ability to skate his way out of trouble. On a night where there were too many failed plays with passing, his skating ability was a big asset even in the loss.
Stats: 0 points, -1 rating, 1 shot, 2 hits, 17:33 TOI