The Montreal Canadiens were looking to win their fourth straight game when they hosted the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night. Both teams were looking to build off of victories from Friday as the Devils beat Pittsburgh 2-1, and Montreal won a 5-2 decision over Washington. Goals late in periods plagued the Habs again, as New Jersey won a penalty-filled affair in overtime.
There were a couple of notable lineup changes for the Canadiens as sophomore Jesperi Kotkaniemi returned to the lineup. Charles Hudon was called up from Laval to take the place of Paul Byron, who is listed as day-to-day. The Habs also announced that Jonathan Drouin was placed on IR, and will be out for at least a week. Keith Kinkaid got the nod in goal against his former team.
The Devils outplayed Montreal through most of the first ten minutes of the period. Their best chance came on a Cale Fleury turnover when the puck went right to Wayne Simmonds in the high slot. He sent a high wrist shot, but Kinkaid came up big to make the stop and keep the game even.
Montreal’s first high danger chance came when Kotkaniemi made a nice pass through to Victor Mete. Mete then carried it beside the net and put it out front. Artturi Lehkonen had a wide-open net to shot at, but Travis Zajac tied him up in time, and Lehkonen could not receive the pass. Shortly after there was a slight scare when Miles Wood was driving hard to the net and crashed into Kinkaid. Kinkaid looked shaken up, but luckily, he was okay and stayed in the game.
The Habs drew first blood with just under two minutes to go. Tomas Tatar gained the zone, then held up and found Jeff Petry at the line. Petry showed great patience as he waited for a seem to open up. When one did, he fired the shot and Brendan Gallagher made a perfect tip to give the Habs the lead.
Montreal couldn’t take the lead to the intermission though as the Devils came back. Nikita Gusev was left all alone in front, but Kinkaid robbed him. The Canadiens were unable to control the rebound, and Gusev converted on a pass from Blake Coleman to tie the game at one.
The Habs didn’t have a great start to the second period. The Devils were peppering them with shots for the first few minutes. Nearly five minutes into the second, the scoreboard displayed a 27-9 shot advantage for New Jersey. The Habs needed to tighten up in their zone and start blocking more shots.
Montreal regained their lead eight minutes into the period. Gallagher made a big hit down low and popped the puck loose for Danault. Danault then sent it back to the blueline for Fleury. Fleury walked in and dragged it to his backhand and roofed it for his first career NHL goal.
Shortly after the goal, an unlucky bounce put the puck into the slot while Kinkaid was behind the net. Taylor Hall picked it up and was wide open, however, Fleury heroically slid in front of the net and blocked it, taking away a sure goal.
With just over two minutes left, Domi and P.K. Subban were racing for a loose puck. Subban turned and slashed the stick out of Domi’s hand, sending the Habs to the game’s first power play. Damon Severson was then called for interference, sending the Habs to a two-man advantage. On the ensuing advantage, Domi faked a pass to Shea Weber and fired the puck on net. Nick Suzuki was sitting on the doorstep and banged home the rebound for a two-goal lead.
Unfortunately, the Habs could not hold on until the end of the period again. With less than a minute left, Hischier was sent in on a breakaway but Kinkaid made the stop. Moments later, Pavel Zacha took the puck down and went in on a shorthanded two on one with Hischier. He sent a pass over and Hischier shot it right through the five-hole with just one second left. This was a very frustrating goal for the Habs to give up, as it is the eleventh goal the Habs have given up in the final minute this season.
The Habs faced some adversity early in the third period as Jordan Weal was called for a four-minute-high sticking penalty. Hall had a hard shot off the crossbar early, but then the Habs killed for the next minute and a half. The Devils bench was called for two many men at the 1:30 mark of the power play. Then during the four on four, Domi was called for hooking Hall, giving New Jersey a four on three. Montreal did a great job to kill off the remaining penalties and get back to five on five.
Eight minutes into the period, Brett Kulak was called for a head contact penalty. However, thirty seconds later Simmonds was called for hooking to even it up again. The mess of penalties continued three minutes later when Wood was called for hooking on Kotkaniemi. Just ten seconds into this one Domi was given a double minor for sliding Coleman’s stick away from him. A Kyle Palmieri cross-check then gave the Habs a short four on three.
Late in Domi’s second minor the Devils were able to tie it. Hall made a nice seem pass to Simmonds who one timed it in for a tie.
With 47 seconds left, a crazy scramble in front of the Devils’ net resulted in what looked like the winning goal. Weber’s stick broke and the puck slid to Gallagher. Gallagher put it on net, and a tangle between Danault and Hischier knocked the puck across the line. Replay determined that Danault put the puck in with a kicking motion so the goal was called off.
Danault was called for hooking in the first minute of OT. New Jersey wasted little time with the man advantage as Palmeri scored on a one-timer on a pass from Hall to give the Devils the win in a strange game.
HabsWorld Habs’ Three Stars
First Star – Brendan Gallagher
Gallagher was the spark plug for the Habs again. He showed his great hand-eye coordination on the first goal of the game and made the big hit that led to the Habs’ second goal. He also made the play to set up what should have been the game-winning goal in the last minute.
Stats: 1G, 4 SOG, 17:39 TOI
Second Star – Cale Fleury
Fleury showed his talent all over the ice. He made a great move and had an even better backhand shot to score his first goal while making a great play to prevent a sure goal shortly after. He is also continuing to be a big physical presence on the back end.
Stats: 1G, +1, 3 SOG, 13:57 TOI
Third Star – Nick Suzuki
The coaching staff showed great trust in Suzuki moving him up to the second line to play centre with Domi and Armia. He looked very good in that position and did not look overwhelmed at all. He is also becoming a key part of the Habs’ power play.
Stats: 1G, -1, 3 SOG, 18:04 TOI
Honourable Mention – Victor Mete
Mete showed his tremendous speed all over the ice. He jumped up into the play many times but was never caught for an odd-man rush the other way. He came close to several assists with his great passing.
Stats: +1 2 SOG, 19:11 TOI
Following the game, the team announced that Hudon was sent back to Laval which suggests that Paul Byron may be ready to return to the lineup on Tuesday against Columbus.