The Canadiens went into that third period seemingly in complete control. They had limited New Jersey to only one dangerous scoring chance through the game’s first forty minutes and carried a 1-0 lead.
All it took was 26 seconds for the wheels to start to come off.. That’s when Nico Hishier tipped Sami Vatanen’s shot from the point to tie the game.
At that point, anyone who had followed this team all year, knew that things were not going to end well even as Carey Price was stopping Hischier on a breakaway six minutes later. Price kept it close right into the final five minutes of the game when the Canadiens found themselves with a two man advantage. Taylor Hall, who was serving the first of the two penalties came out of the box and was handed a breakaway to score a shorthanded goal to make it 2-1. There were still four minutes left but that was negated by a Nicolas Deslauriers slashing penalty with two minutes left. Just another way to lose for 51st time this season.
Again, it was hard to find fault in the effort but, once again no reward for hard work.
Carey Price equaled Jacques Plante’s team record 556 appearances in the Canadiens in this game. He had an easy time of it in the first two periods but in the third period there was that breakaway save on Hischier. And he kept it a one goal hockey game with three terrific saves in close succession during the late Devils power play. One goal-against on a goalmouth deflection and the other on a breakaway from a Hart Trophy candidate. No way you can pin this loss on him.
For the most part the Canadiens defence did a good job and a lot of credit has to go to the three kids who make up one half of the group, especially Noah Juulsen who again showed he can calmly move the puck under pressure. He also had the confidence to carry the puck himself when the Devils gave him the room. Juulsen led the Canadiens with six hits, a few of them bone rattlers and he blocked three shots.
The jury is obviously still out on Brett Lernout and Mike Reilly but in this game, they did more good than bad. Reilly broke up a shorthanded two-on-one late in the first period and started the play that led to the Canadiens only goal. Can’t say I was excited about the so-called veteran contingent of the defence. It was Jeff Petry’s turnover that led to the winning goal.
Daniel Carr caught my eye early in the game. He hit the post in the 15th minute of the first period and with seconds left he scored on the power play. He averaged just under five shifts a period which made it hard to assess his contribution. Same with Mike McCarron who seemed to be all right in a well-protected total of eight minutes of ice time.
Kerby Rychel made his Canadiens debut as a left winger with Logan Shaw and Nikita Scherbak. He registered six hits, but other than that nothing stood out. Shaw and Scherbak had their ups and downs as well.
….We got the usual all-out effort from both Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron. Gallagher led the Canadiens with five shots on goal.
….I’m liking Jacob de la Rose more and more. Early in the game he seemed to be the only offense the Canadiens were generating. He won 10 of his 15 faceoffs as well.
….De la Rose’s left winger Alex Galchenyuk had another spectacular night and right winger and Artturi Lehkonen led the Canadiens in high danger scoring chances.
….After a few rough nights, Jonathan Drouin got back on the positive side in faceoffs, wnning 9 of 15. He was also minus-2 in the game.
Final week of the season. The Canadiens host Winnipeg Tuesday night and then wrap up the season with games in Detroit and Toronto Thursday and Saturday. They remain 28th in the league – fourth in the draft lottery. What are the odds that the Canadiens finish the season on a five game losing streak?