As is tradition against the New Jersey Devils, the game was not riveting TV. Added to the usual Devils boredom was the very fact that the squad the Montreal Canadiens dressed was light on NHL players, and heavy on prospects and in-betweeners.
To say that the game did not get off to an auspicious start would be an understatement. Just 47 seconds in, the Devils scored on a deflection — possibly off a Habs player's stick.
Mueller gets the puck and uncorks a wicked slapshot that gets directed past Price pic.twitter.com/t9qiKfvAef— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) September 21, 2017
Jeff Petry had a terrific chance, jumping up unopposed and sprung by Brendan Gallagher a few minutes later, but the attempt was followed up by more Devils offensive zone time.
Except for the Petry chance, and a couple of strong shifts from the Gallagher, Danault, Galchenyuk line, the first period was characterized by sloppy play, and a whole lot of meh.
Brett Lernout drew an early second period penalty, but the Habs’ power play was an absolute tire fire, as Eric Gelinas first handed the puck straight to a Devils player, and then tripped up Taylor Hall to negate the man advantage. Gallagher got a good chance in the ensuing 4-on-4, and Torrey Mitchell got one all alone in front of the net, thanks to a pass from Lernout, but was unable to elevate the puck over Keith Kinkaid. However, the two attempts briefly woke up the Bell Centre.
Gelinas redeemed himself shortly thereafter, however, drawing a penalty at 7:09 and then (after a far improved Habs power play) unleashing an absolute laser of a shot from the point that tied up the game.
Eric Gelinas with an absolute bomb from the point ties the game for the Habs pic.twitter.com/r4iy6XOrjN— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) September 22, 2017
The Devils pressed afterwards, but Carey Price held down the fort until, with 4:31 left in the second, Nico Hischier on a deflection.
Price got bowled over with 3:11 to go as a Devils player went into Jakub Jerabek, and they both went into the crease. The Devils got a bench minor as well in the chaos that followed, but despite some chances on the lengthy 5-on-3, none of them were terribly dangerous, and the period came to an end.
The beginning of the third was not much different, though Nikita Scherbak, Daniel Audette, and Antoine Waked had a strong shift with a few scoring chances. Joe Morrow took a high-sticking call, and though the Habs killed it off Jesper Bratt took advantage of an out-of-position Price to make it 3-1 half way through the frame.
The Habs ran into some penalty troubles thereafter, as first Byron and then Jerabek went to the box, leading to a brief 5-on-3 for the Devils. The Habs, including Lernout, McCarron, and JDLR (all regulars on the IceCaps’ penalty kill) held the Devils off. They pulled Price in the final minute-thirty or so, but Bratt scored his second into the empty net, and the Habs fell 4-1.
It was a pretty lacklustre game all around. Price had his moments, but no one really stood out, though some players played better than they had in previous outings so far.
- You could definitely tell that this was the weaker Habs squad, between more prospects and vets with no fear for their jobs. The play was less cohesive than it was on Wednesday, and far, far less polished.
- The power play did not look super hot last night, however passing judment a power play with half its biggest weapons missing, and replaced (after the first line and Petry) by rookies and tweeners is an exercise in pointlessness.
- Lernout fared well once again to keep his steady pre-season going, and Scherbak also was a little more noticeable in a positive way, getting a couple of good scoring chances. Although moderately improved from their last pre-season games, I would not say either of them were stand-outs.