devils march 16Tomas Plekanec deflected a Jarred Tinordi shot for what proved to be the winning goal in the third period as the Canadiens won a hard-fought 2-1 decision over the New Jersey Devils at Newark Saturday night.  The win put the Canadiens back in first place in the Eastern Conference, a position they lost when Pittsburgh and Boston won afternoon games. It was their fifth straight win, a season high and ran their season road record to 10-2-2.  Colby Armstrong had given the Canadiens a 1-0 lead in the first period.  The Devils’ Peter Harrold tied the game on a second period power play.  The Canadiens were outshot 33-22 including 18-9 in the third period.  The Three Stars were Plekanec, Carey Price and the Devils Peter Harrold.

Adding It Up –

Slugfest –  Only coaches love this kind of hockey.  But what did you expect?  These were the Devils.  And the Canadiens have taken a page from their book this season so it was destined to be a neutral zone battle.   There were a total of 15 shots in the first period and eight scoring chances, four by each team.  The Devils tried to beat the Canadiens ‘in the alley’ by outhitting them 18-4, but as almost everyone else in the Eastern Conference has found this season, the tactic has a low success percentage.

Fourth Liners – It’s been eight games since a member of the Canadiens’ fourth line picked up so much as a single point (Feb. 20 @ Toronto).   Eight minutes into the first period Ryan White lost a faceoff to Stephen Gionta but Anton Volchenkov had his pocket picked by Colby Armstrong who rifled the puck past Johan Hedberg with Michael Blunden on the doorstep.  Armstrong’s first goal as a Canadien and first since last February in Toronto.

Picking It Up – The Canadiens then put their forechecking machine in motion.  The Devils managed only two shots through the final 12 minutes of the period.  The Canadiens checkers forced the Devils into six giveaways while the Canadiens were charged with one.

Opening the Door – A second period  holding-the-stick penalty to Ryan White in the offensive zone in the fourth minute was the ticket for the Devils   While killing the penalty, Lars Eller was tripped trying to bring the puck out of the zone.  The puck slid to Ilya Kovalchuk who passed it over to Peter Harrald for the screen shot through Price’s five-hole.  1-1 tie.

Toothless – Much has been made of recent success of the Canadiens power play.  Against the 20th ranked Devils penalty killers, they were awful.  0 for 3 with only one shot on goal.  On one of the power plays Ilya Kovalchuk, who leads the NHL with four shorthanded goals, took advantage of a fallen P.K. Subban, got loose on a two-on-one and hit the post behind Price.  To be fair, seconds later on the same power play, Lars Eller deflected a shot off Galchenyuk’s stick and off the post.  1-1 at the end of two periods.

Opportunism – The Canadiens took advantage of a major mistake in their first goal.  The Devils gave them another gift at 6:49 of third.  Marek Zidlicky deep in his own end, tried to hit Adam Henrique at centre ice with a stretch pass.  Jarred Tinordi, with all of ten minutes of NHL experience was right there.  He had the presence of mind to let a low shot go and Tomas Plekanec deflected it.  2-1 Canadiens.

Carey Takes Over – Trailing in the third period the Devils came out of their trapping shell.  From the Plekanec goal to the end of the game the Devils outshot the Canadiens 15-8.  The Canadiens did a good job of keeping much of the Devils  offense to the outside but seven of the 15 shots were A-one scoring chances which Price handled confidently.  His best save may have been one he didn’t see.  Adam Henrique put a screen shot off his right arm in the final minute.  And the Canadiens lock down a 2-1 victory.

Something to Think About

….The Canadiens organizational depth has been tested over the last two weeks and they’ve passed with flying colours.  With Bourque, Prust, Ryder and Diaz out of the lineup, they have run up five wins in a row.  Three members of the Hamilton Bulldogs played against the Devils. Jarred Tinordi was plus-2, Michael Blunden plus-1 and Dumont finished the night even.  Tinordi and Dumont were each given 14 minutes of ice time.

….Fortunately Michel Therrien doesn’t share the opinion of the Colby Armstrong detractors.  Armstrong spent 50 percent of the game with White and Blunden, but when the going got tough in the late stages he found himself with Galchenyuk and Eller and he was part of the second wave of penalty killers with Eller.  Plus in the final minute, he was out there with the Devils goal emptyfor the sixth attacker  playing with Desharnais and Moen as the Devils tried to tie the game up.

…..The Devils were playing their third game in four nights.  It showed in the final two periods.  After outhitting the Canadiens 18-4 in the first period, the physical part of their game started to fade.  To the point where the Canadiens led 14-8 in that department through the final two periods.

One From the Room“(Tinordi) showed a lot of poise for his age and played very solid. He wasn’t nervous. He saw more ice time because you can see him become more comfortable. He made the right decisions.”    Canadiens Coach Michel Therrien

Ahead – The Canadiens home to Buffalo on Tuesday and to Long Island on Thursday.