Playing the New Jersey Devils is like running in sand with work boots on. Every puck has to be won the hard way, every goal comes with a heavy physical price tag. It’s always been like that, and New Jersey regime change or not, it looks like it will always will be.
The Canadiens brought their lunch buckets to the Bell Centre Wednesday night and came away with a 2-1 win in a game that featured almost everything except end-to-end hockey.
Max Pacioretty scored on a power play. Torrey Mitchell scored the winning goal while the Canadiens were shorthanded late in the second period. Tomas Plekanec had a goal taken away because of a high stick. David Desharnais missed on a penalty shot which was caused by Jordin Tootoo sliding a broken stick at the puck. The Canadiens played an entire shift with six players on the ice and no-one, not the officials or the Devils spotted it.
All of that aside, this may have been the best team effort we’ve seen in a month.
There has been a lot of panic in Canadiens game as the losses were piling up over the last month. They showed none of it against the Devils. They appeared to reach a familiar comfort zone as they protected their one goal lead through the final 19 minutes of the game.
After Adam Henrique deflected a deflection past Mike Condon in the first minute of the third, the Habs allowed only four Devils shots the rest of the game; only one of them could have been considered a good scoring chance. That came with 4 ½ minutes remaining when Jiri Tlusty was shut down by Condon. He might disagree, but of the 20 shots he faced, I can think of only two that really tested him – a screen shot from defenseman Andy Greene in the 12th minute of the second period and Tlusty in the third. The Canadiens allowed only 20 shots on Condon only three in the final ten minutes of the game.
On the goals it was more about the supporting cast than the goalscorer. Max Pacioretty scored on the power play thanks to the usual net presence of Brendan Gallagher, who had Cory Schneider completely screened out. And on the shorthanded two-on-one, Paul Byron pulled off an exquisite toe drag on the defenseman before sending the puck in from for Torrey Mitchell’s deflection for the ultimate game winner.
It should be noted that this was the Canadiens third win the last five games which on it’s own would be acceptable, especially when four of the five were on the road and they won a grinder of a game in what was their second outing in the last 24 hours.
But it might be a good idea to leave the bandwagon in the garage for just a little while longer. There are five hard nights ahead. Pittsburgh and Chicago at home, then it’s back-to-back in St.Louis and then Chicago before coming home to Boston. If they win even three of those five games, one might start to breathe a little easier.
In the meantime, fans and the team can savour this one. A very satisfying night.