The Montreal Canadiens’ penalty kill dropped to last place in the NHL after surrendering three goals in a 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last night. At 73.8%, the Habs have allowed a goal about every fourth penalty they take, and gave up 20 power-play goals in 50 short-handed opportunities over 15 games in the month of March.
The New Jersey Devils’ man advantage isn’t nearly as potent as that possessed by the Penguins, though it has been converting fairly regularly of late. Taylor Hall has either scored or assisted on the five power-play goals the team has in its last five games, and a trio made up of him, Kyle Palmieri, and rookie defenceman Will Butcher has been the one doing all the damage.
With two goals yesterday, Hall is now up to 36 on the season, adding 52 points for a career-high 88 points. His goals were key in a 4-3 victory that moved the Devils five points clear of the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference wild-card race, as the team appears set to make the post-season for the first time since they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011-12.
With the Philadelphia Flyers in a tough match with the Boston Bruins today, a win over the Canadiens could move the Devils into the first wild-card spot, and allow them a bit of room for error in their final three games of the season.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: Sportsnet
In the Canadiens region: RDS (French)
In the Devils region: MSG+
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL GameCentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
The Devils have taken three of four points from their games versus Montreal this season. Without Hall, they fell 2-1 in overtime in mid-December. With Hall, three power-play goals helped them race out to a 6-1 lead before the end of the second period on March 6, and they held on for a 6-4 win.
Despite the loss, the game put Jacob de la Rose in the spotlight with a two-goal performance. After drawing back into the lineup on a regular basis beginning on February 24, he’s been a key member of the team in that time, getting a consistent assignment in the centre position between Alex Galchenyuk an Artturi Lehkonen, and performing quite well with a deployment skewed toward defensive-zone starts in the process.
His line may the one called upon to counter Hall’s trio today in hopes of at least limiting the offence one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league. Carey Price will attempt to help his cause, getting the home start of back-to-back games this weekend; his fourth game since returning from a concussion. He had his first win in eight starts in the meeting with the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night, and will hope to build upon that with a solid effort tonight with a long off-season approaching.
Paul Byron has been displeased with his team’s effort in recent games, seeing several teammates content to play out the remainder of the year. He has four games to hit the 20-goal mark, but will need some help from those around him if he is to accomplish that feat for a second straight year.