“Tonight we did a good job of getting back on track”, those were the sentiments of Canadiens’ Captain Brian Gionta after the 3-1 win against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center. With the last few days filled with speculation about Montreal losing their plot and doubts about the team making the playoffs, Jacques Martin’s Canadiens finally showed up for a very crucial game. Not only did Montreal play a solid road game stealing a page from the New Jersey Devils’ hockey, they did it in a city where they haven’t had an easy time in recent history. This was Montreal’s third consecutive win in the Garden State matching the grand total they had won in their previous 23 encounters since 1997.
Martin Brodeur’s heroic efforts in the first period couldn’t prevent Montreal from taking a 1-0 lead. Mathieu Darche had talked about keeping things simple during a recent practice in Montreal, and he did just that when he deflected a pass from Gionta from the left boards. Darche beat Mark Fayne to the puck, redirecting the pass from his Captain for a 1-0 lead at the 9:43 mark of the opening frame. The Canadiens’ captain collected his 400th career point on the play. Brodeur made a good save on Tomas Plekanec, who poked a puck away from Ilya Kovalchuk during a penalty to Lars Eller to present himself alone in front of Devils’ net minder. Travis Moen who was behind on the play failed to reach the loose puck as it got deflected away by a hustling Devils’ player.
Carey Price, playing in his 70th game of the season, tying Gerry McNeil and Jacques Plante for most starts by a Canadiens goaltender, was not tested by the home team but was forced to come up big on a penalty shot to Mattias Tedenby at 4:48 in the first period. Price cramped Tedenby for room as the puck hit the post on the left of Price and rolled along the goal line but stayed out of the net. P.K. Subban caused a turnover at the Devils’ blue line allowing Tedenby to get a break away but Hal Gill slashed the Devils’ forward preventing him from taking a good shot towards Price. This was the fourth penalty shot Price had faced this season improving his record to 2-2.
The second period completely belonged to Brodeur who stopped 14 Montreal pucks with many spectacular saves. He was particularly brilliant against Michael Cammalleri robbing him of a certain goal when the Canadiens’ forward failed to put a loose puck in the open side. He shot the puck straight in Brodeur’s glove who didn’t give up on the play even after losing the puck in the traffic. The Devils’ ace netminder made another huge save on #13 of the Canadiens in the last minute of the period with the Habs enjoying a one-man advantage. He was also sharp against his former teammate Scott Gomez who used his speed to cut in front taking a good snap shot on net.
Cammalleri had a good game getting many scoring chances but either failed to capitalize on some or was stopped by Brodeur on others. About mid-way through the second period, a play described the kind of season Cammalleri is having this season. With Brian Roloson in the penalty box, Plekanec made a cross-ice pass to Cammalleri who was stationed in the right face-off circle, a spot where he scored most of his goals from the previous season. Instead of burying that puck in the net, like we have seen him do many times in the previous season, Cammalleri completely fanned on his shot.
The New Jersey Devils made life easier for Price, who only faced 12 shots during the first 40 minutes of the game. Travis Zajac had a great chance to tie the game with less than six minutes remaining in the second period, when he had a partial breakaway but shot the puck over the net.
Montreal stunned the Devils with two goals in 3:05 of the third period. Subban made up for his first period blunder when he ripped a 60-foot one-timer past Brodeur with his team on the power-play. Andrei Kostitsyn didn’t get any assist on the goal but played a huge role by screening Brodeur in front. Then Darche scored his second goal of the night, a mirror image of his first goal with Gionta passing the puck from the right boards this time.
Price lost his shutout bid with 5:59 remaining in the game when Kovalchuk scored during a delayed penalty call to the Canadiens. Patrik Elias controlled the puck well in the Habs’ zone and made a good move on Price before passing the puck to Kovalchuk on other side of the net, who just had to push it in an empty net. Minutes earlier, Price had made a huge save on the #17 of the Devils when he deflected a puck in front. With his teammates relying heavily on him to make big saves in recent games, Price saw his team playing a perfect road game stopping 20 of 21 pucks. Brodeur on the other end made 25 saves and was the only player to show up for the home team.
Montreal will be playing their last home game on Tuesday night hosting the Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks before ending the season on the road facing the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
HiD Three Stars
- Mathieu Darche
- Martin Brodeur
- Brian Gionta
HiD Turning Point
Mattias Tedenby failed to capitalize on an early Penalty Shot in the game.