There would be no third period meltdowns for Montreal today; as they put up 2-0 lead in the third period and only allowed one to the New Jersey Devils. Oh, the Devils certainly made it interesting. Nick Palmieri got on the board off a loose puck in the slot with 6:26 left to play. New Jersey tried to drive forward, earned a power play to end the game, and proceeded to generate a goal-mouth scrambled that resulted in Josh Gorges covering up the puck. That means a penalty shot and the Habs faithful at the Rock were terrified. Stricken with horror that the Devils could tie this game up, in a situation not unlike a shootout - something the Candiens and Price has struggled at this season. Zach Parise, a near-perfect 6-for-7 in shootuts this season, stepped up. He made his move to his right, he got Price stretched out, and it was denied.
The Canadiens PK wisened up after the missed penalty shot attempt, they got clearances in a 6-on-4 situation and so held on. The Devils couldn't steal the point and Parise, among others, was notably frustrated.
To be fair, I'm not pinning the loss on Parise not scoring on a penalty shot. This wasn't a game where you can easily pin the loss on a player or a particular aspect of the game. The Devils came out strong in the first period and out-shot the Canadiens 13-7. Even in the second period The Devils out-shot the Canadiens at even strength in the first two periods and overall 23-15. The Devils were superior in possession, as indicated by the team's +11 in Corsi. Martin Brodeur played well in net, just as he did on Tuesday and as he normally does against Montreal.
One could point to penalties, as Montreal had 5 power plays. As they have been all season, Montreal was successful in generating shots on net as they got 9 across all five of them. They even scored on one of them, when an uncovered Max Pacioretty fired a rocket to the top corner from the slot. I will agree the first three calls were ones the Devils should have avoided; particularly the third one where Adam Henrique knocked a puck over the glass near the end of a minor penalty to Dainius Zubrus. That one turned out to be costly. I felt the boarding call on Ilya Kovalchuk was a weak one from the refs; and I didn't mind Mattias Tedenby's second penalty as it may have prevented a scoring chance. Even so, the Devils didn't lose the game from being on the PK so much. They only allowed the one goal and even with the penalties, the Devils managed to out-shoot their opposition in the first two periods, where they took four of the five calls.
One could also point out to the third period performance. The Devils struggled against Montreal's trap and so only got 4 shots on net at even strength compared to Montreal's 8. They also allowed a goal. Mark Fayne made a soft clearance to the point that Tomas Kaberle picked off. He goes in, fires it to Mathieu Darche, Darche gets the rebound and fires it to Erik Cole, who was behind Fayne. I'm not sure if Cole actually got it or if it re-directed off Fayne's skate; but the point's all the same. Another open man, another loose puck in front of the net, and it ends up in the back of the net. Even if Brodeur didn't dive out for the puck, I doubt he would have stopped Cole at the post. So the Devils are down 2-0 and not really getting much in attack. Yet, Palmieri did score a goal to make the game possible, the Devils' attack didn't disappear, they drew a call and even a chance to tie it up. So it may have hurt, but it didn't destroy their chances.
Ultimately, I'm not too upset with the loss. Sure, I'm not happy; but it's not like the Devils were so abjectly bad that they deserved to lose. They did quite a bit right and that shouldn't be forgotten just because the team adds one to the "L" column. A little bit of a luck, some fewer errors on defense, and some more SOGs by the Devils in the third, and they could have won this one handedly. Just like Parise's penalty shot, it just didn't happen. And that happens over a season.NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The Time on Ice Shift Charts | The Time on Ice Head to Head Ice Time Charts | The Time on Ice Corsi Charts
The Highlights: There were highlights of this game. Here they are from NHL.com:
The Devils Out-Shot and Out-Attempted The Canadiens Consistently: Yet, they didn't play 60 minutes.
Call me stupid, but what does that even mean to play 60 minutes? To straight up dominate the opposition? That can't be it, since very few teams get to do that a few times within a season - much less consistently. Opposing teams rarely lay down when they're losing by a score or two. Is it to out-possess the other team? The Devils did that today, even the third period didn't bring them down anywhere near zero. Plus, score effects usually reign in that regard. Is it to never make a mistake or have a bad shift? Please, that's impossible even when during a blowout. Nobody's perfect. Is it when a team wins a game? Well, that can't be it because Montreal played nowhere near 60 minutes and they won today.
The reality is that teams make adjustments from period to period and not every adjustment can be properly responded to in time. Even if the coach figures it out, the guy on the ice skating may not. The Canadiens sat in a trap for most of the third period. If anyone should know how difficult that is to play against, it should be New Jersey. Even so, the Devils still pulled a goal back and put Montreal on their heels for most of the last five minutes of the game. Is constantly pinning a team back meaning you're playing 60 minutes? I guess so; but how often does the other team get blanketed without some fight back? Very rarely.
Basically, it's a topic worthy of more discussion for another day. All the same, I don't think it's the particular reason why the Devils lost today - but that's just my opinion.
Something About a Goaltender: Martin Brodeur played well. He made several important stops; not the least of whic was that he bailed out an Adam Larsson turnover in the second period. As usual, he was excellent on the PK and he (or any other goaltender) had no real chance on Pacioretty's shot.
Of course, since the Devils lost, people are going to spit fire about the second goal against and claim that Brodeur's done and/or that Hedberg should play. The latter point is arguable; but today's game really didn't present any evidence for it. Since I'm expecting heat from the second goal against, let me devote some details to it. I don't believe he had a chance on the rebound be it from Darche or Cole. No, he did not have bad rebound control on Darche's shot. Darche fired a one-timer in the slot. Since it hit Brodeur in the pad, he's not really in a position to control where the puck goes. It was a hard shot, it was a point-blank save, and so the puck is going to go wherever it does. It doesn't matter if it's Brodeur, Moose, or Tim Thomas; goaltenders aren't going to be in control of those situations. It's why their main job is to stop the shot and it's why the defense's job is to clean up any loose pucks afterward. If you want to point a finger at someone, point it at Fayne. His "clearance" went right to Kaberle and you can even hear Chico groan as it happens in the highlight video. Moreover, he didn't have his stick on the ice nor make an attempt at the puck after the save despite being in the area. That allowed Darche/Cole to do what they did. While Fayne had a bad shift then, he wasn't like that all game long. But since he's not a goaltender or old or Kovalchuk, he's probably not going to get the blame for the GA.
Power? Play?: I didn't think the Devils power play units had such a bad afternoon. On the one hand, they only got four shots on net across three opportunities. Given that the Devils were losing during each of them, that's not good. On the other hand, the Devils did a good job keeping the puck in and trying to set up shots. Since the Devils have had problems in allowing shots and goals against during a man advantage, that's good. We can say they drew a penalty shot, so they weren't useless. Plus, Montreal has been great at killing penalties. Yet, the Devils' power play had chances to get something going and ultimately didn't. That's a bit of a disappointment.
Rookies on the Blueline: Adam Larsson had his regular Horrible Giveaway in the second period and from then on was mostly OK. He finished positive in Corsi with a +4, which is rather impressive given his most common opponents included Pacioretty (6 SOG, +5 in Corsi) and P.K. Subban (4 SOG, -2 in Corsi), who both combined for 10 of Montreal's 24 shots on net today. Yet, the pairing of Larsson and Bryce Salvador didn't make very confident in them at times. Salvador is just slow in general, much less to respond to Larsson needing help; and Larsson nearly made some poor decisions with the puck. Since they were a net positive, my complaints may not as valid as I originally thought them to be.
There were two other rookies on the blueline: Alexander Urbom and Matt Taormina. They were as expected, for lack of a better term. There were a few shifts where they looked comfortable and joined up on the attack at times. There were a few shifts where each looked out of pace, like they just got called up from the AHL to play in a NHL game. I'm not surprised because, well, they were just called up from the AHL. Overall, they were fine. Peter DeBoer limited them to about 14 minutes at even strength, gave each a little time on special teams, and kept them away from being matched-up against a Montreal line for too long. I wonder if DeBoer will keep them together in future games, but that's contingent on the status of Anton Volchenkov's hand.
The Power Line: DeBoer re-untied Zubrus with Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora. While they didn't score any points, they did the most damage in terms of possession. They creamed the unit of Tomas Plekanec, Michael Cammalleri, and Andrei Kostitsyn at even strength; as Sykora and Elias had several attempts on net. They were more consistent than the Adam Henrique line today. Parise and Kovalchuk were up and down and Henrique really didn't get much going. It was noticed by DeBoer as he replaced Henrique with Elias for a few shifts in the third period. Given that the Elias line did so well at evens, I wonder whether they should be kept together. Eventually, all of that possession should turn into points.
Faced Off and Broken: The Devils definitely got rocked at draws at the dot today. The team went 23-for-56 and only Zubrus finished above 50% in faceoff percentage. I doubt it really affected the turnout of this game, as the Devils did so well in terms of possession. It would have been nice if they did better, I guess.
Before You Get A Statue: Montreal fans were livid when their team acquired Tomas Kaberle and his awful contract. I'm sure some Habs fans are eating some humble pie since Kaberle picked up two assists today. Kaberle wasn't bad per se, and the production is a nice early return. Yet, he was a -1 in Corsi going against the Elias line (expected) and the Ryan Carter line (not so expected). He only played 11:10 at even strength, he only got one weak shot on net in the first period, and got blocked twice. Again, Kaberle was OK, but I wouldn't start anointing him as the Guy Who Saved the Montreal Power Play or anything else just yet. Of course, Montreal being Montreal, this may fall on a few deaf ears.
Noise: There was a considerably large contingent of Montreal fans here. And why not, what with a chance to visit NYC on the weekend, check out a game, and get back by Monday. They were present and loud. That shouldn't surprise anyone. You'd be pretty raucous too if you were on a bus for however many hours with likeminded fans who support the team. Casuals usually don't travel like that; the hardcore fanatics do - and they're not going to just sit on their hands when they get there. Did it have an effect on the game? Not really, since Montreal came quite close to blowing their two goal lead late in the game. Not to mention their bad home record. Still, they had reason to cheer and so they did. Like it or lump it, because it's only going to happen once next season.
Poor Clarkson: Parise battled through defenders and set him up for what could have been an easy goal early on. He either whiffed on it or got robbed by Carey Price. Clarkson wasn't an anchor today, but he only had the two shots on net and just finished above zero in possession. If there was ever a "what could have been" moment outside of Parise's penalty shot, that early chance was it.
Hey, What About #9 and #17?: Both Parise and Kovalchuk had four shots on net apiece. Both saw a lot of Gorges and Subban at even strength and so they didn't generate too much in terms of shooting attempts against Price today. I don't think Parise made a bad move on Price on the penalty shot; and I felt Kovalchuk was fine for the most part today. The only major fault between the two was Parise going too aggressive and missing coverage in the neutral zone on a penalty kill, which opened up the space for Pacioretty to get in the high slot and score. Yet, I don't think it's fair to define his day by that, the penalty shot, Clarkson whiffing on his pass, or any other single event. Given that both players just had six-game point streaks snapped today, I'm not terribly concerned about either.
Those conclude my thoughts on today's game. What are yours? What did you like from the Devils performance? What would you like to see more of in their upcoming game on Monday? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on today's game in the comments. Thanks for everyone who followed along and read in the gamethread; everyone who followed @InLouWeTrust during the game; and thank you for reading.