Hockey, Devils’ Dominance Over Canadiens Ends in 7-4 Loss
Walking Wounded Devils Left Searching For Answers By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
No Jack Hughes or Miles Wood. No Jimmy Vesey or Nathan Bastian. And no Mackenzie Blackwood. The list goes on and on. So many players who the Devils were counting on are currently out with various injuries. Yes, it’s part of the game; but that doesn’t make it easier to deal with.
Thursday night at Prudential Center the Devils tried to dig down deep but fell short of victory as they lost to the Canadiens 7-4. The Devils were done in by a combination of: shoddy defense, shaky goaltending and multiple breakdowns in all three zones.
The loss blemished New Jersey’s previously dominant record vs. Montreal. Prior to this game the Devils had been 9-0-2 vs. the Canadiens since the 2017-18 season. They had also been 4-0-1 at home against Montreal during that same time span. Now, those records are 9-1-2 and 4-1-1.
Here’s how it all went down.
1) Andrew Hammond and Jake Allen started in net for their respective teams, with the extra subplot of Hammond facing his old team for the first time since being traded a couple weeks ago.
On this night, Allen was the better goalie, recording 33-saves on 37-shots.
2) After a strong shift from New Jersey’s fourth line, the trio of Dawson Mercer, Tomas Tatar and Pavel Zacha proceeded to let the Canadiens skate swiftly into the Devils’ zone. A nice sequence of passing opened some lanes for Montreal and Nick Suzuki wired a shot from the right face-off circle past Hammond at 4:35 of the first for the 1-0 Canadiens’ lead.
3) Then, 2:06 after Suzuki’s goal, Jake Evans ripped a high-rising shot, from high along the far boards, through traffic and past Hammond for the 2-0 Montreal lead.
4) 30-seconds after Evans’ goal, Mercer found Tomas Tatar alone in the slot. And Tatar wasted no time, shooting the puck past Allen to bring New Jersey within 2-1 at 7:11 of the first.
5) After several minutes of back-and-forth play, Dougie Hamilton and Pavel Zacha let Cole Caufield get in behind them for a breakaway. Ryan Graves couldn’t keep Suzuki’s stretch pass from hitting Caufield in stride and the youngster did a quick little move before sniping the puck past Hammond to put New Jersey in a 3-1 hole with 6:16 left in the first period.
6) Onto the second period and the Devils had the clear edge in play for the first several minutes, outshooting the Canadiens 6-1 in the first 6:51 of the period. Then, at the aforementioned 6:51 mark, Kale Clague was called for high-sticking Michael McLeod to send the Devils to their first power-play of the game.
“I thought we worked really hard tonight,” said A.J. Greer. “They tried to break out of their zone. We kept them in. Our pressure was relentless.”
7) With the two-minute man-advantage, New Jersey recorded just two relatively harmless shots on goal. Those two shots did bring New Jersey’s game total to 21, against just nine for Montreal.
8) In regards to the shots on goal department, the Devils outshot the Canadiens 12-1 through the first 12:28 of the second period. While that sounds terrific many of the shots were of the low-danger variety and did not overly test Jake Allen. Montreal ended New Jersey’s little run with a flurry of their own shots against Andrew Hammond but were unable to extend their lead.
9) The flow of the game shifted moments later when A.J. Greer paid off New Jersey’s hard work with a wraparound goal for his first of the season. Greer’s goal brought the Devils within 3-2 at the 15:00 mark of the second period. And to add to Greer’s accomplishment, he scored against his hometown/childhood team, the Montreal Canadiens.
“I think it was important (for me to score)”, said Greer. “Not only for my first game back, but for everything that’s been going on.”
10) 1:20 after Greer’s goal Montreal retook the momentum of the game as Joel Armia scored to restore the Canadiens’ two-goal lead. So, it was 4-2 Montreal with 3:40 to go in the second period.
11) Next came a wild start to the third period. But first, another player lost to injury as Jonas Siegenthaler left the game with an undisclosed injury.
“There is concern,” said Head Coach Lindy Ruff. “We probably won’t know more until tomorrow. But, again, that was a pretty big blow for us on the backend.”
Then came the goals. Chris Wideman at 1:11 and Christian Dvorak at 1:26 scored to increase Montreal’s lead to 6-2. That knocked Andrew Hammond from the game and brought Nico Daws in for a relief appearance. Then, at 1:53 of the third, Ty Smith’s shot beat Jake Allen to bring the Devils within 6-3.
“It was a fast-paced first five-minutes,” said Greer. “They’re a really good offensive team and they make you pay when you make a mistake and unfortunately they scored two right off the bat.”
12) As is often the case after a flurry of goals, Brendan Gallagher was called for tripping Andreas Johnsson to send New Jersey to its second power-play of the game at 3:46 of the third. On the power-play the Devils did not manage to score but they did show some added life that made many believe the game was far from over.
13) At 10:59 of the third period the Devils capitalized on the momentum they had slowly been accumulating through the middle of the third period. Jesper Bratt, who had been in something of a slump the last couple of games, struck for his second point, first goal, of the period to bring New Jersey within 6-4 with 9:01 to go in regulation.
14) Not to be outdone, but the Canadiens weren’t willing to just let the Devils come back without a fight. Kale Clague scored with 6:43 left in the third period to make it 7-4 Montreal and put the final nail in the Devils’ coffin.
New Jersey’s power-play went 0-for-2 on the night. Meanwhile the Devils did not go to the penalty-kill…Nico Hischier led all Devils forwards in ice time at 19:41…Ty Smith led all New Jersey defensemen in ice time at 21:44.