The Montreal Canadiens have found themselves immersed in Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" at this point in the season. They've had multiple winning streaks, but even more losing streaks. Heading into Thursday's game against the New Jersey Devils they are on another one, currently with a three-game skid following what was a five-game winning streak.
The Canadiens (13-14-4) have lost their last three games (0-2-1), with their latest defeat coming at the hands of the also-struggling Edmonton Oilers by a score of 6-2 last Saturday. All-star goaltender Carey Price who had been playing stellar hockey in his return, was pulled for the second time this season after allowing four goals on 14 shots just over two minutes into the second period. Forward Jujhar Khaira had the first two-goal game of his NHL career in the win.
The Habs got goals from forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Phillip Danault. In relief, goaltender Antti Niemi made 24 saves on 26 Edmonton shots.
Montreal hasn't won since achieving their biggest margin of victory this season when they defeated the Detroit Red Wings 10-1 back on December 2. Perhaps the four-day rest is what they needed to begin another of those winning runs.
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Tale of the Tape
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On Thursday evening, they're facing a resurgent New Jersey Devils team that sits in third place in the Metropolitan Division. New Jersey (17-9-4) was dead last in the Eastern Conference a year ago at the end of the regular season, but a few moves by general manager Ray Shero has them bouncing back this season, to everyone's surprise.
Their most recent outing saw them run all over the Los Angeles Kings in a rematch of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, handing them a 5-1 loss in Newark.
Taylor Hall led the charge with two goals in the win. He currently leads the team with 31 points, and is second in goals with 11, behind only Brian Gibbons with 12. Goaltender Cory Schneider stopped 16 shots en route to his 12th win of the season.
After Hall's 31 points, three standout rookies are tied with 20 points: Swede Jesper Bratt, a sixth-round selection in 2016; Switzerland’s Nico Hischier, drafted first overall last June, and; American defenceman Will Butcher, originally drafted by Colorado back in 2013.
One interesting thing to note is that the Devils are only one of two Eastern Conference teams with 10 wins on the road, the other being the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Last season, Montreal swept all three games against the Devils by a combined score of 12-6. Habs captain Max Pacioretty scored four of his team's goals, including at least once in each tilt.
Following tonight’s game, Montreal heads to Ottawa for the Centennial Classic taking place this Saturday. They will also then have six more games on the road to close out the 2017 calendar year. Their next home game will be January 2, versus the San Jose Sharks.