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Canadiens vs. Devils recap: Point shaving

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It wasn’t always pretty but it’s an important two points for the Habs

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Shaw, Jordie Benn and Charles Hudon were among a group of Montreal Canadiens to shave their heads for charity. On Thursday night, they all contributed points as the Habs beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in overtime at the Bell Centre.

Hudon drew three Devils to him and won the puck battle for long enough to make a perfect pass to Tomas Plekanec to give the Habs the win in their last home game of 2017.

The opening two minutes had more action than some entire Devils-Canadiens games. Paul Byron left to the locker room, Max Pacioretty was robbed by Cory Schneider, the Devils took the lead, and Byron came back.

New Jersey took the lead when the mixture of a delayed penalty and bad change led to Stefan Noesen breaking in unmarked on Carey Price and putting a perfect shot past the Canadiens goaltender.

Shea Weber went to the bench while the Devils were retreating but the Canadiens took so much time to send another defenceman out that Jeff Petry was way too late to get across to try and stop Noesen.

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It was the type of start that made you think that maybe the Canadiens were going to take a fifth straight day off.

The Canadiens did end up tying the game in the opening 20 minutes. Andrew Shaw had a beautiful deflection of Benn's point shot.

It was an important goal for the Canadiens, and perhaps most importantly, despite some good chances, the Devils were not able to get a second goal.

In the second period, the Canadiens had to kill off a five-on-three for over a minute, and the group of Price, Plekanec, Benn and Shea Weber were up to the task.

Price would come up big again in the third period when Nico Hischier would intercept a soft Weber pass and break in alone on Price. Price would make the save and keep the game tied.

The Canadiens would get some chances of their own in the third, including Byron Froese getting a pass in the slot to Jeff Petry but the puck sliding through his legs.

After a start to overtime that would have Alex Galchenyuk missing an opportunity to get a pass to Petry, Galchenyuk would start the play going the other way that actually led to the sequence of the winning goal, giving the Canadiens the 2-1 win.

Thoughts

  • It may not have looked it, but it was actually a pretty productive game for the Canadiens. They won the possession battle and all four of their lines were a part of that. No line was dominated over the game, and their best line was the line of Shaw, Drouin and Galchenyuk at about 70% (Shaw and Galchenyuk were over 70%). That’s encouraging. Benn and Weber were also over 60%.
  • Carey Price was huge in this one, and his performance allowed the Canadiens to find their footing, especially in the first two periods. I wouldn’t say that he stole the game necessarily, because the Canadiens played pretty well overall around him, but he definitely was a huge part of the win.
  • The power play had a lot of issues tonight, but I do really like Drouin there. He is an able passer, and that opens up opportunities for him in the high slot when he walks in from the half wall or from the point. Changes definitely need to be made, but the talent is there. It should only be a matter of time before it gets going, but we’re already close to January and it hasn’t worked yet.
  • Max Pacioretty left the game in the third period and it didn’t look good but he did return which was very encouraging, and frankly, surprising. If he avoided a significant injury, the Canadiens should consider themselves lucky even if Pacioretty is not playing his best hockey right now.
  • For the first time this season, I really liked Claude Julien’s usage in overtime. They started with Pacioretty, Drouin and Weber and then went to Galchenyuk (taking the faceoff at centre), Paul Byron and Petry. Then it went to Hudon, Plekanec and Benn. I would assume the next duo would have been Brendan Gallagher, Shaw, Phillip Danault or Daniel Carr and I can’t complain about that.
  • Hockey players are superstitious. I wonder if you’ll see any more shaved heads in the Habs locker room... But some may wait until after Saturday’s game to stay warm.