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Throwback Thursday: April Fools for Montreal

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Today I take a look back at my personal favorite goal from this past New Jersey Devils season and one that wound up being very important to the team qualifying for the playoffs.

New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The New Jersey Deils had some pretty goals this past season; just off the top of my head are Blake Coleman’s one-handed backhander, Jesper Bratt’s complete fake-out of Mike Condon, and Nico Hischier tipping a very late goal in to beat the Second Rate Rivals. Today, however, I will focus on my favorite goal from the 2017-18 season, that being Taylor Hall’s shorthanded goal from the April 1st game against the Montreal Canadiens.

Setting the Scene

With both teams entering the second half of a back to back with this game, Keith Kinkaid would see the ice for the second time in as many nights with the Devils still trying to outpace the surrounding teams for a playoff spot. The scoring would be opened by Montreal, with Daniel Carr notching a late first period power play tally. New Jersey would challenge the goal being offside, but despite it being very close, the goal stood.

The Devils, now playing from behind, would have their chances, but also needed to rely on Kinkaid making some big saves. The 1-0 score would hold until the opening moments of the 3rd period; Jersey would enter the zone, and the puck would wind around the boards to Sami Vatanen. Sami would simply toss a wrister towards the net, and Hischier would manage to tip it past Carey Price.

The Devils had renewed life, with the game tied and over 19 minutes remaining; then with around half of a period to go, everything looked like it was all about to fall apart. The Devils would take a too many men penalty served by Hall, and Ben Lovejoy would take a debatable, but dumb nevertheless, cross checking minor.

Then, the magic began.

The Goal

The Devils needed to kill 52 seconds of 5 on 3, and with Lovejoy in the box, they had less options than usual. Travis Zajac and Andy Greene would of course come out, and somewhat surprisingly Mirco Mueller would be chosen as the third player. The Devils season was seemingly riding on this kill; and kill the penalty they did.

Time would wind down, and Jonathan Drouin wound the puck up high to Jeff Petry; Petry attempted to get his one timer on net, but it was blocked by Travis Zajac. In one of his most brilliant moments of the season, Zajac (aware of Hall exiting the box) lobs a soft pass over Petry’s stick right to the most dangerous player on the ice that night. I won’t even talk anymore about the goal until we all just sit back, watch and reminisce:

I love everything about this goal: the pass, the shot, the teamwork, the recognition. Hall pots the shorty after corralling the pass, and immediately goes to rejoin his teammates while pointing repeatedly to Zajac as if to say “that one was all you.” Devils versus Everyone was alive and well for everyone watching that game to see that night; the four Devils on the ice embraced as though they had just won the game in overtime.

The goal itself wasn’t anything too crazy; Hall gets Price to bite on a head fake to Hall’s right, while he lofts the puck to his left. It was simple sure, but with how incredible Hall was this past season, he wasn’t going to be stopped. In the grand scheme of the season as well, the team needed this goal; it would stand as the game winner, and as we all know from the way the season finished, they could not afford any lost points. Had the Devils lost this game, they would have missed the playoffs.

Your Take

Now that I’ve shared my favorite goal from this past season, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the play; where does it rank among your favorites from this year? Were you watching live as this happened? If so what was your reaction? If you caught it on a highlight package or replay, what were your thoughts on this goal when you first saw it? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!