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Canadiens vs. Devils Top Six Minutes: Running out of steam

Oct 24, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goalie Cayden Primeau (30) jumps to make a save against the New Jersey Devils during the first period at Bell Centre. | Credit: David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

A few changes among the lines if not the personnel. Rafaël Harvey-Pinard is off the top line and replaced by Josh Anderson.

First period

  • Another decent start to put some pressure on the Devils early. They didn’t get that last night and spent much of the first period chasing the puck.
  • The first chance Cayden Primeau faces is a breakaway and he dealt with it well. That will help settle any nerves.
  • Michael Pezzetta sends his man flying to create a turnover, allowing Justin Barron to start a transition. In the offensive zone, Pezzetta has a rebound go to Barron again and it’s a 1-0 lead. What a shift!
  • The Devils get it back as Nico Hischier crashes the net, but it’s being reviewed for goaltender interference as his foot shoved Primeau’s pad into the net.
  • And it’s no goal, which the Devils can’t really complain about.
  • For whatever reason, it looks like the rink is made of frozen slush tonight. I suppose it’s good to be out to a lead if that’s the case.
  • Primeau keeps the Devils off the board with a spectacular diving save. I was concerned about how he would fare in this game, but he’s playing very well.
  • Johnny Kovacevic goes to the box for tossing down his man, and now a power play with a 42.9% efficiency rate goes to work.
  • The Devils also use the drop-pass in the neutral zone, but with two players attacking with speed and not just one. There’s an extra pass option to get into the zone.
  • The power play comes through again for New Jersey as Justin Barron and Arber Xhekaj get caught watching the same player and Alexander Holtz pounces on the puck. They are having to do this without David Savard tonight, remember.
  • That’s now 10 for 22, or 45.5%.
  • Now the Canadiens get a chance to show off their own power play….
  • The puck does Montreal a favour and disappears on a dump-in.
  • The Devils have to have second-hand embarrassment watching Montreal try to transition the puck up the ice on the man advantage.
  • Brendan Gallagher gets taken down behind the net right as the power play expires. That one isn’t a penalty for some reason. We all know the reason.
  • A pretty good period overall. Stop the bad turnovers in their own zone and stay out of the box (that’s the big one) and the Habs will be okay.

Second period

  • From nowhere the Canadiens get a two-on-one. Alex Newhook keeps and shoots, but Vitek Vanecek makes the save.
  • Meanwhile, in Kanata, the Buffalo Sabres have a 5-1 lead. The two teams that played last night are doing alright so far.
  • Arber Xhekaj stops a man in his tracks trying to cross the blue line. A violent zone-entry denial.
  • Montreal is once again seeing the opponent have a lot of possession, but not many dangerous chances this period. But they are more likely to be called for a penalty playing this way.
  • Newhook has made a couple of poor decisions trying to clear a puck in this game. He wants to make a pass, but when there’s no option he just flips it forward.
  • A rare glimpse at the NHL level of Jesse Ylönen’s powerful shot sends a murmur through the crowd as he just misses.
  • Anderson gets taken down at full speed and goes into the boards. He’s slow to get up, but he puts his team on the power play.
  • Mike Matheson dangles around a penalty-killer to get to the high slot, but his shot gets stopped by a teammate. Don’t make this more difficult than it already is, guys.
  • … And then he gives the puck away moments later. I think tonight, and perhaps the season so far, is a case of him feeling he needs to do too much for this defence.
  • An uncharacteristic move from Jake Evans to hit his opponent in the face sends the Devils back on the power play. It’s usually him receiving the unnecessary head contact.
  • New Jersey spends the full two minutes in the zone, but the Habs’ defensive structure never breaks and they kill it off. Suzuki and Ylönen defended the top half of the zone very well.
  • There have been some questionable decisions made by Gustav Lindström on defence tonight, but in the offensive zone he plays effectively along the right-side boards to create opportunities.
  • Montreal almost got out of the period, but a wide-open Tyler Toffoli solves Primeau.
  • Immediately the Habs are given a penalty and face the threat of going into the intermission down by two. As far a contact goes, that was among the lightest to deem a penalty, and they’ve dealt with that for six games now.
  • Anyway, just 40 seconds left in it to kill off, then the Canadiens need to find a goal of their own in the third.

Third period

  • They managed to kill 32 second of it. 3-1 Devils.
  • I’m going to say Ylönen takes the fault for that one for diving to the crease when he had a teammate already there, leaving his man open.
  • The Sabres have seen their 5-1 lead slip to 5-4. Suddenly the fatigue is evident for both clubs.
  • Xhekaj takes another penalty for grabbing the shoulder of his man.
  • And a goal seconds into the power play.
  • 48%.
  • This has to be fixed because it’s the biggest issue affecting the team right now.
  • Smart by Erik Haula. The Canadiens put two good shifts together so he sent the puck into the crowd to make them play five-on-four.
  • Joke’s on them. Cayden Primeau goes to the bench with 10 minutes left to make it a six-on-four.
  • And it’s a goal for Mike Matheson on a solo effort. He did a lot on that play too, but just enough.
  • Just when I think you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this… and totally redeem yourself.
  • Matheson has decided he’s had enough of being mediocre. He just tried another solo rush and obliterated Luke Hughes as he stepped in front of him.
  • A Toffoli hat-trick goal will seal this one with a 5-2 score.

EOTP 3 Stars

3) We’ll find out soon enough.

2) Struggling with the standard right now.

1) An encouraging game from Primeau.