The injury plagued New Jersey Devils come to Montreal to play the Canadiens as decided underdogs. They fall behind a dominant Canadiens effort but manage to hang around on the scoreboard only to take advantage of a couple of late defensive breakdowns to steal a win.
It’s always something when the Devils come to Montreal.
Fact of the matter is, if the Canadiens had shown an urgency that matched their overall effort they might have had a 4-0 lead in the game by the end of the second period which would have mitigated any Devils comeback attempt.
A tough loss to swallow considering the Devils had won only six of twenty-six road games and were missing Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac and Sami Vatanen.
But of course, the Canadiens will reluctantly accept the loser’s point.
Seems like, more often than not, we wind up pointing a finger at Jonathan Drouin and his defensive lapses in losses like this one. In this case Drouin has to take at least part of the blame. The energy had come out of the Canadiens game in the third period but they were still protecting a 2-1 lead. The Danault line which included Drouin was on the ice against the Devils top line. Drouin’s job was to look after Nico Hischier as Danault struggled to recover a loose puck in the Canadiens end. For some reason Drouin elected to turn away from Hischier and go on offense. Kevin Rooney found Hischier alone in front of the net and the game was tied. Drouin’s only notable event in the game turned out to be a negative.
Claude Julien has taken to putting his speed players on the ice for 3-on-3 overtime. He had them out for this overtime as well including Victor Mete in the second minute. Problem was Mete wasn’t fast enough to handle Hischier who swept around him to score the overtime winner. Up to that point Antti Niemi had a pretty solid game. In what Julien called “a goal he would like to have back”, Niemi pulled away from the post allowing Hischier to score high on his short side.
It seems every game there’s a flash of brilliance from Jesperi Kotkaniemi. There was more than a ‘flash’ in this game. Kotkaniemi was the best player as centre on the Canadiens best line with fellow Finns Joel Armia and Artturi Lehkonen. Kotkaniemi scored the Canadiens first goal. By the time the first period ended he might have had three. His coaches have been harping on the fact that he hasn’t been making use of a better than average shot. He took ten of them against the Devils. Five-on-five the line controlled 80 percent of the Corsi shot and scoring attempts while they were on the ice.
Once again the power play came up empty, but there were promising signs – at least on the first unit.
For the second consecutive game Julien used Kotkaniemi as a right side wheelman with Armia and Tatar and point men Weber and Drouin. As a unit they maintained puck possession and generated shots. The same couldn’t be said when the second PP unit (Domi, Gallagher, Hudon, Petry and Reilly). Five of the seven power play shots over six minutes came from the first unit.
….Accurate chart of the flow of the game. In the first two periods the Canadiens had five high danger scoring chances to only one for the Devils. In the third period the Devils out-chanced the Canadiens 4-0 despite the Canadiens holding a 64% territorial advantage.
….Shots on goal favoured the Canadiens 39-27. The Canadiens attempted 79 shots to New Jersey’s 39.
….Brendan Gallagher led the Canadiens with 7 shots on goal in 12 attempts.
….Eighteen seconds into the overtime Max Domi hit the goalpost.
…..Not a very good day for Jordie Benn who picked up two bad penalties. The first was a momentum killer at the tag end of an excellent shift from the Kotkaniemi line. He was also sitting in the penalty box with Shea Weber when the Devils scored their first goal.
After the Saturday schedule the Canadiens remain in third place in the Atlantic Division three points behind Toronto and one ahead of Boston eaich of whom has a game in hand. The Canadiens will host Edmonton at 2:00 Sunday afternoon in the second half of their Super Bowl weekend doubleheader. The Oilers were lost in overtime at Philadelphia Saturday.