With the Montreal Canadiens’ roster slowly being ravaged by the flu, there were some unexpected heroes who shone bright at the Prudential Center against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night. With goals coming from Joel Armia, Nate Thompson, Nick Cousins and Christian Folin, the Canadiens were able to overcome a 3-0 deficit to eventually defeat the Devils 5-4 in a shootout.
The victory wouldn’t come easy. Less than a minute after the Canadiens successfully killed off the first of five power plays of the night, Miles Wood gave the Devils the first of their four goals by firing a snapshot from a nearly impossible angle. Charlie Lindgren, who made 20 saves in the win and who received the start after Carey Price stayed home sick, lost his angles and as a result saw his team down by one about halfway through the opening frame.
In an effort to make up for the weak goal, Lindgren came up big on two occasions by period’s end. A sneaky pass found Nikita Gusev alone in the slot shortly after the Devils took the lead, and though Gusev fanned on the puck, Lindgren followed the play through to make the save.
The netminder made what was arguably his best save of the game with a little under two minutes remaining in the period by getting his blocker on Blake Coleman’s quick shot to keep the Habs’ deficit to one after 20 minutes of play.
The Devils’ second goal came on the power play less than two minutes into the second as Shea Weber was called for tripping Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri, who scored two goals in his team’s loss, proceeded to roof his 18th of the season above Lindgren’s blocker just five seconds into the man advantage.
In a busy start to the second frame, Dale Weise attempted to bring the Canadiens back into the game by dropping the gloves with John Hayden, though the momentum switch and the comeback didn’t begin until later in the period.
The Devils proceeded to get their third consecutive power play early in the second, as Artturi Lehkonen was called for tripping. Despite the man disadvantage, Armia almost brought the Canadiens back to within one by stealing the puck at centre ice and going on a breakaway. When he was hooked by Damon Severson on the play, the Devils and the Canadiens went to some four-on-four action.
Jesper Bratt’s 10th of the season found the back of the net during this time without him really having to shoot the puck at all, as he completely fanned on his shot. Lindgren, who followed Pavel Zacha’s pass perfectly, would have made a highlight-reel save had the shot not been missed, but instead the puck unluckily trickled to his left to make it 3-0 in favour of New Jersey.
After another fight, this time between Cousins and Kevin Rooney, Montreal finally broke Louis Domingue’s shutout with a short-handed goal. With seven minutes remaining in the period, Armia once again found himself on a short-handed breakaway thanks to his consistent efforts on the penalty kill. Unlike his earlier chance however, this time his wrist shot found its way under Domingue’s blocker. His 14th goal of the season set a new career high.
The Canadiens’ comeback really took hold late in the second when Thompson drove to the net while protecting the puck and waited for Domingue to commit to a save. Once he did, Thompson slid the puck around the netminder’s pad, giving him his third goal of the season. Ryan Poehling picked up his first NHL assist on the play, which gave Montreal just a one-goal deficit heading into the third.
Unlike the one preceding it, the third period started relatively uneventfully with just a failed Canadiens power play two minutes in. With pressure mounting against the Devils and with the post saving them with 13 minutes to play, the momentum switch ultimately proved to be too much for New Jersey as Cousins redirected a brilliant pass from Brett Kulak to bring the teams back to square one.
With the Canadiens’ bench being rejuvenated by their three-goal comeback, the pressure kept mounting in their favour, which led to them taking their first lead of the night less than three minutes after they had tied the game.
Folin, who was only put in the lineup after Victor Mete was scratched with an illness, saw his first goal of the year deflect off of Devils forward Travis Zajac with a little over 10 minutes remaining in the game.
A too many men on the ice penalty against the Canadiens sent New Jersey back to the power play with just 1:09 remaining, and with Domingue on the bench the Devils had a two-man advantage. After a flurry of net-front scrambles and saves, Palmieri eventually roofed his second of the evening by Lindgrem with 19.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
Overtime solved nothing, so the battle of the right-catching goaltenders carried on into a shootout. Lindgren stood tall on all three shots he faced, but made an extra-impressive pad save on Jack Hughes, while Ilya Kovalchuk silenced the chorus of boos that had been following him every time he touched the puck by netting the shootout game-winner against his former team.
Ilya Kovalchuk scores the shootout winner and silences the New Jersey crowd that booed him all night pic.twitter.com/7xwz1B03Ky— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) February 5, 2020
Finally beating the Devils on their third and final attempt this season, the Canadiens head back home, where they will host the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night.