Price, Canadiens clip Devils in OT
MONTREAL — The New Jersey Devils flew into the Bell Centre on Thursday night still riding high from snapping the Los Angeles Kings’ eight-game winning streak earlier in the week. The Devils were unable to carry some of that momentum into Montreal.
Carey Price made 31 saves and Tomas Plekanec scored the game-winning goal in overtime, lifting the Canadiens to a 2-1 win over the Devils (17-10-4). Montreal (14-14-4) snapped a three-game losing streak in the process, earning its first victory since a 10-1 rout of the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 2.
“We really needed those two points,” Plekanec said after the win. “To make sure we leave for that road trip on a positive note.”
The win marks the final time the Canadiens will play at the Bell Centre in 2017, improving their record at home this season to 9-7-3.
These two clubs did not waste any time once the puck had been dropped. Cory Schneider was forced to make a huge save for the Devils just 33 seconds into the first period. Less than a minute later, with the extra attacker on the ice due to a delayed penalty, right winger Stefan Noesen fired a snap shot past Price, giving New Jersey an early 1-0 lead.
Andy Greene and Jesper Bratt picked up the assists on the goal.
“My game’s finally starting to come a little bit,” Noesen said of his five-game point streak. “I’m starting to kind of come into my own. But there was a game in there where I got a lucky bounce.”
The Devils weren’t able to hang on to that lead, though.
With 6:29 to go in the opening frame, Canadiens defenseman Jordie Benn fired a slap shot from the blue line that was tipped by Andrew Shaw past Schneider, tying the game at 1-1. Center Phillip Danault also earned an assist.
Montreal left winger Paul Byron briefly headed to the locker room early in the first, but returned to the bench shortly thereafter.
After 20 minutes of play, the Canadiens were outshooting the Devils 14-12.
“I think we started a little slow,” said Canadiens center Andrew Shaw. “We tied things up and we got going, and then we got some penalties.
“But we worked hard, we competed, we blocked shots, and we got pucks that we needed to, and found a way to win in overtime.”
New Jersey outshot Montreal 12-7 in the middle frame, but couldn’t capitalize with the added man, despite multiple opportunities to do so, including a juicy 65-second, 5-on-3 with Byron Froese and Karl Alzner in the penalty box.
“I thought that was really the turning point right there,” Habs coach Claude Julien said about staving off the Devils during that two-man disadvantage. “We were able to build from that and go back out 5-on-5 and keep working, so I thought that was a big kill, obviously.”
Benn, who blocked three shots in 15 seconds during that 5-on-3, was humble about stepping up after the game.
“We were in a pretty big scramble there,” he said. “I saw Price lying down, and just lying there, so I thought if I slid in behind him maybe, because they had the puck, they were going to go high, so if I could get in the way, I could. But I think Price got all those ones.”
The third period was uneventful, with the exception of Montreal captain Max Pacioretty heading to the locker room after sustaining what looked like a shoulder injury. He returned to the bench with 30 seconds left in the third, and took the opening shift in overtime.
Plekanec would fire the winning goal past Schneider, the center’s fourth goal of the season. Charles Hudon and Alex Galchenyuk picked up the assists.
“We really tried to win this game,” rookie Devils center Nico Hischier said. “We had chances to win this game, and unfortunately it went the other way.”
Montreal will now begin a seven-game road trip that starts with the Centennial Classic on Saturday in Ottawa. The Devils, meanwhile, return home to host the Dallas Stars on Friday night.
NOTES: Devils LW Taylor Hall did not make the trip to Montreal. He’s sidelined with a knee injury that he sustained against the Kings on Tuesday. Hall’s status is listed as day to day. ... RW Kyle Palmieri and LW Marcus Johansson also remain out of the lineup with injuries. ... The Devils also made a minor trade on Thursday night. General manager Ray Shero announced after the game that New Jersey had traded forward Ryan Kujawinski to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for forward Michael Latta. ... Canadiens D Jeff Petry earned his 100th career assist on his 30th birthday Saturday night against the Edmonton Oilers. ... Montreal LW Max Pacioretty’s scoring drought was extended to five games on Thursday night. He has just one goal in his last 14 outings.