The Montreal Canadiens came into New Jersey looking to win a game in regulation for the first time in February and finally put two wins together in the process for the first time since early January. The Habs new they had a quick turnaround, heading home to face the Blue Jackets tomorrow night.
The Devils were equally hungry, having lost three in a row, so there was hope the game may produce a smidge of excitement.
The Canadiens began the game much the way they did Saturday; quick on pucks and putting pressure on in the offensive zone. The physicality started early with Brendan Gallagher and John Merrill engaging in some pushing and shoving. Andrew Shaw picked up where he left off, buzzing around the Devils’ end and allowing Nathan Beaulieu a shot from the blue line that Corey Schneider tracked all the way.
The intensity tapered off considerably after that initial play, with teams trading low-quality chances that were easily foiled by the netminders.
With just a few seconds left in the period, a turnover in the Habs’ end gave the puck to Travis Zajac, who managed to flip to Kyle Palmieri in the slot. His quick snapshot ended up past Montoya to open the scoring and send the teams to the locker room with the Devils up 1-0.
The second period opened with some offensive pressure by the Canadiens, including a tough Shaw shot from in close that Schneider managed to corral.
The Devils had a chance to extend their lead with a power play four minutes in when Alexei Emelin sat for tripping against Stefan Noesen. Despite a good look or two, the Canadiens managed to kill off the Devils’ hot special teams unit, which had gone five for nine prior to this attempt.
The period wound down with a few chances for the Canadiens but the teams headed to the dressing rooms just as they had after one, with the Devils up 1-0.
The third opened with some new-look lines for the Canadiens as Claude Julien continues to tweak his roster.
Early on, the Devils were able to add to their lead when a broken stick hampered Torrey Mitchell and John Moore sent the puck past a heavily screened Montoya.
Immediately off the centre-ice faceoff, the Canadiens took the puck to the Devils’ end and Alexander Radulov reduced the lead back to one just 11 seconds after the Devils’ goal.
As the Canadiens continued to put the pressure on, Desharnais took an interference penalty in the offensive zone that was nullified by an embellishment call on Damon Severson, sending the teams to two minutes of four-on-four hockey that ended fruitlessly.
Phillip Danault, after tumbling through Montoya’s crease with Blake Coleman, was called for hooking and the Devils restored their two-goal lead, scoring quickly on the ensuing power play.
Again, the Habs rebounded right away, as Max Pacioretty snapped a Beaulieu rebound short side past Schneider to pull back within one, just 43 seconds after Zajac’s power-play marker. The tally gives Pacioretty his fifth 30-goal season with the Canadiens, the fifth Hab of all time to do so.
The pace of play picked up as the Canadiens pushed for the equalizer. A quality point-blank kick save by Montoya on a Noesen mini-breakaway kept the game within reach for the Canadiens as they continued to press with three minutes remaining.
Montoya left for the extra attacker with just over 90 seconds left and, after Shaw shot attempt was deflected over the net, play was stopped and the Canadiens called their timeout to strategize.
When play resumed, with Shaw screening Schneider, Pacioretty’s snapshot from the halfboards trickled slowly across the line, and his 31st would send this game to extras.
The goaltenders traded quality saves in overtime until Beaulieu was hooked down by Severson, sending the Habs to a four-on-three power play. Alex Galchenyuk’s beauty of a one-timer on a silver-platter pass from Shea Weber gave the Canadiens a power-play goal and two points for the win.
- Shaw on Plekanec’s wing seems to have put a bounce into the centre’s stride. I have to believe that if Shaw can keep this level of play up down the stretch, he may just pull Plekanec back with him.
- Game number five under Claude Julien and the Canadiens’ structure has looked better every single game. Their zone entries are a thing of beauty and I no longer feel the need to watch them in their own end half covering my eyes. They’re headed in a great direction.
- Max Pacioretty has become one hell of a captain. He’s put this team on his shoulders when they need him the most. His reaction to the game-tying goal is clear proof of just how much this means to him. Character and leadership are Bergevin’s favourite buzzwords, but they mean something here and I think we’re starting to see it.