Last night's game featured a comeback by the eventual winners beyond regulation. It was a 3-2 final, though that required a shootout. Tonight, the roles were reversed. The Montreal Canadiens scored the game's first two goals - and lost beyond the sixty minute mark. The New Jersey Devils completed a comeback in a more dramatic fashion to take this game with a 3-2 score. The Devils needed and provided a goal within the final minute of regulation to tie it up. It was a blast by Kyle Palmieri past a screen by Adam Henrique and goaltender Mike Condon. An overtime winner by John Moore, which came from a rush and drop pass by Henrique and Moore had to put home his own rebound. It was thrilling stuff for a win.
By nature of getting a point beyond regulation, both teams come out of this home-and-home with three out of four points each. Both benefit. The Devils can keep away from the bottom part of the Metropolitan Division for a little while longer. They avoided a winless streak and can use this three-out-of-four result to feel good about that. The Canadiens remain atop the Eastern Conference. They didn't get run over by a team that most would agree that they should beat. They sort of split it and without two key players in their lineup. No big deal for them. From a results perspective, it was a favorable set of back-to-back gets for all involved.
The performance perspective isn't so bad either. I liked how the Devils played for most of yesterday's game. Only the third period featured a domination by Montreal and overtime was ugly. Tonight's performance didn't feature a really bad period for either side. Just some bad shifts and moments with some good shifts and moments in each period. Attempts were closer with the Devils only being out-attempted 60-55 in all situations and New Jersey coming out ahead in attempts at even strength, 54-51. There were plenty of times where I lamented that the Devils didn't play like they were down a goal or two. And in time, they made it happen.
I will say that the game was really looking like it was set for a 2-1 loss near the end of regulation. Montreal kept up possession and put the Devils on their heels in the late minutes of the third period. The Devils just struggled to get through the neutral zone, much less enter Montreal's. As a result, Cory Schneider was kept in the crease until about 45 seconds were left in the game. The Canadiens handled the end of the game almost as well as one could expect. With that in mind, it's fortunate the Devils got an offensive zone faceoff, won it, and Palmieri blasted it from the sideboards perfectly. It was a stunning goal in the sense of the word.
I will also say that the overtime play was symbolic of how the game went. Montreal rushed forward, got a shot, Schneider stopped it, New Jersey attempted a rush, didn't get it, got a rush against, Schneider stopped it, and the Devils pushed forward again to catch Montreal. The drop pass by Henrique certainly fits as the Devils had instances in both of these games of deferring the puck over shooting an already good shot. Only it actually worked after Moore popped in his own rebound.
As much as the Montreal faithful may lament about how the Devils are about low-event hockey - which wasn't the case tonight given that both teams combined for 115 attempts, it was an entertaining finish. It speaks to the growing notion that the 2015-16 Devils are not only different, but faster and more exciting to watch. It's hard to disagree given how this game ended. Regardless of how things may have appeared earlier in regulation.
The Opposition Opinion: Liam McKenna has this short recap at Eyes on the Prize.
The Game Highlights: From NHL.com, here are tonight's highlights:
The First Step in a Comeback is A Goal: The first step for any comeback is to score one goal. That one goal came past the midway mark in the period. Adam Larsson blasted a puck from the point, it hit off another player, and it trickled through Mike Condon's legs. It was a welcome sight as Alex Galchenyuk scored his and Montreal's second of the night minutes earlier. It was a surprise and I think it incurred a little belief by New Jersey before the final five minutes where Montreal played well to defend their lead until the end.
However, that another player isn't just some lucky guy. It was Patrik Elias. The touch was the first of the season for the Devils legend. It was a far more active night for #26. He had four shots on net to lead the team tonight, he played over fifteen minutes of ice time, and he was even moved up to play with Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri for a couple of shifts. Some successful shifts I might add. The only downside was that he took a silly interference penalty off an offensive zone faceoff. Galchenyuk smacked in a rebound to convert that power play in less than ten seconds. Still, it was a sign of Elias getting back into form and the goal was an important event in the game. I like it when two good things come together like that.
A Better Top Six: The Zajac line played better tonight than they did on Friday. They were defending quite a bit, but they eventually did hit back as well as they took. I think the decision to get Sergey Kalinin away from Zajac and Palmieri helped a bit. We may see that in future games. Either way, the line's improved performance helped make the game more even from a possession standpoint. The Henrique unit was very formidable tonight. Henrique had multiple scoring opportunities, such as the first one of the game for New Jersey and technically the last one before he dropped it off for Moore. Lee Stempniak and Mike Cammalleri were moving well and they had three shots each.
Lesser Special Teams: The Devils' power play struggled to get anything going tonight. So much so, they didn't register a single shot on net. Entering Montreal's end of the rink was a challenge and one they often failed. The penalty kill had to just bear down at the beginning and they got quickly torched in the third period. They were imperfect from both a shot prevention (six shots allowed) and a goal prevention (one goal) standpoint. It definitely did not help New Jersey like it did on Friday or other nights.
Mighty Moore and Uh...Dangerous Severson: John Moore had a happy ending to tonight's game. The game winning goal and the primary assist for the equalizer always looks good. Defensively, he shaped up. His partner Damon Severson, less so. Severson has been caught flat-footed in some situations and the Canadiens took advantage. Whereas the defensemen ended up even or better in possession, Severson was quite below 50% - and the damage came from Montreal's second and third lines more than their first. I look at a game like this and I wonder what's happening to #28. If Moore isn't getting beaten but Severson is, then what can be addressed? I don't know.
Schneider Remains Great: The goals against him tonight were better than last night's. A deflection off Galchenyuk's body that completely changed the direction of Nathan Beaulieu's shot. The goalie had no chance. He was hung out to dry on a short rebound that Galchenyuk potted perfectly over the prone protector of the net. Elsewhere, he was as excellent as one could hope for. He denied one-timers, early rushes, Dale Wiese early in the game with Tomas Fleischmann following, and a breakaway by David Desharnais in his one move of the night. As much as a comeback begins with a goal, it doesn't happen without the foundation of strong goaltending keeping the game within reach. As usual, Schneider provided that.
For the Opposition: The top forward line and top defensive pairing for Montreal wasn't bad but they weren't as good as they were on Friday. This helped New Jersey in a way as P.K. Subban wasn't as dominant of a force on the point at evens as he was on the power play. Jeff Petry and Beaulieu played much better tonight to the Devils' detriment. Sven Andrighetto didn't get to play spoiler, though Galchenyuk definitely did. The two goals means it's a three-game goal streak for him. The Canadiens can certainly be pleased with that. Condon had more to deal with in terms of volume and held up well. Like Schneider could do little about the goals against him, he could do little with a deflection, a screened shot, and a put-back. In general, I think Montreal played a good game, though they didn't have a period of dominance that they had on Friday.
One Last Thought: Tyler Kennedy got more ice time tonight with eleven minutes, drew a penalty, and didn't get too bad in his own end. While he didn't provide a point or will provide many, it's another game where he's getting closer to the form the team expects him to be in.
Your Take: The Devils won in a dramatic fashion against the best team in the Eastern Conference. How did you react when Moore scored? What do you think of how the Devils performed tonight? Do you think they did well enough to get a win, or were they fortunate to get this result? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's game.
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