Friday night in the swamps of Jersey. Bad memories. Dull games, almost always losses, as the Devils would choke the Habs to a stand still while Martin Brodeur padded his Hall of Fame numbers.  As one of New Jersey’s most beloved residents might have said about this one – “It was deja vu all over again”. For almost two full periods anyway.

That the Habs were low on energy to start the game in Newark was no surprise. There figured to be an emotional letdown following their victory two nights earlier at Madison Square Garden. What was surprising – as Dale Weise pointed out to Marc Denis of RDS after the first period – was how aggressive the Devils were, sending two players in on the forecheck while finishing checks all over the ice. An up close reminder that Lou Lamoriello has taken his blueprint (with its arcane list of “rules” including no facial hair, no player shall wear #13 and no family road trip with fathers or mothers, among who knows how many others – no fun?) out of state and out of the country. If you’re a Devils fan you’ve already started to feel the difference with Ray Shero in charge of hockey operations. Kind of like when Marc Bergevin replaced Pierre Gauthier. Shero, like Bergevin, inherited a star goaltender but his number one priority was to institute a long overdue culture change. So Mike Cammalleri, for example, is once again allowed to wear his beloved number 13 (instead of 23). And – thanks to Luc Gelinas of RDS – we know that the first ever Devils father-son road trip is in the works. This resonates with players. It’s an important first step. The Devils might not be back in the playoffs but they are finally out of the dark ages.

But alas, old habits die hard. They were the old Devils to start the third period sitting on a one goal lead. No forecheck. And these are definitely not the old Habs. Or as Yogi Berra might have said, “It ain’t over till it’s over”.

THE GOOD

  • Alex Galchenyuk. You’re watching a future #1 centre emerge before your very eyes. He’s always had sick hands. He just needed time to learn the game at the NHL level. And he’s had terrific teachers.  The game tying goal was a thing of beauty. First, the burst of speed to outrace both New Jersey defensemen. Second, the ability, while moving at great speed, to protect the puck, and then the coup-de-grace, a backhand underneath the crossbar. Unstoppable. His shootout goal wasn’t too shabby either.
  • Sven Andrighetto. Cory Schneider now knows who he is. Got the Habs going late in the second period. Drew two more penalties. And won it for Montreal in the shootout. Keeper.
  • Tomas Plekanec & Max Pacioretty. Both robbed of certain goals by Schneider. Plekanec also had a chance to win it on a shorthanded breakaway in overtime but missed the net. It was Pacioretty’s perfect feed that sprung Galchenyuk loose for the game tying goal with less than nine minutes to play.
  • Michel Therrien. “We needed a push in the third period” is how Therrien explained his decision to move Galchenyuk alongside Plekanec and Pacioretty. But it was likely a power play that convinced him.
  • Power Play. Stat sheet says 0-4. And the first two power plays were awful. But when Jacob Josefson tripped David Desharnais (perhaps a make up call after a Jon Merrill high stick to Desharnais’s face went undetected) about eight minutes into the third, the Habs real power play emerged. Even though it didn’t score Montreal controlled the puck inside the Devils zone for the full two minutes. It was Galchenyuk on the right side with Plekanec and Pacioretty. On their very next shift they connected to tie the game.
  • Lars Eller. Perfect feed to Andrighetto to get the Habs on the scoreboard.
  • Andrei Markov. His assist on the Galchenyuk goal was the 400th of his NHL career. He’s just six assists behind Hall of Famer Guy Lapointe.  Lapointe is second among Montreal defensemen, a few miles behind Larry Robinson.
  • Mike Condon. Here we go again.  Still hasn’t lost on the road in regulation time.
  • Bud Holloway. Welcome to the NHL. At age 27. By way of the AHL, ECHL, Swedish Hockey League and the Swiss-A League. What a long, strange trip it’s been.
  • Greg Pateryn & Tom Gilbert. So Therrien can now flip-flop Pateryn and Alexei Emelin. Kudos to Gilbert.
  • Tomas Fleischmann. Easily the best of his trio.
  • David Desharnais. Twice robbed from in close by Schneider. Fifth game this season Desharnais has had three shots on goal. Had only seven games of 3 SOG or more all of last season. But memo to Vincent Damphousse: The Habs will not get to the Stanley Cup Final if Desharnais (3 goals in 38 playoff games) is in the one or two slot at centre.
  • Dale Weise. Not much happened for him on the ice but he turned what is usually a waste of time – the between periods interview – into an informative and entertaining 90 seconds or so. He expressed – with some surprise – how aggressive the Devils were in the first period. He also told Marc Denis how bad the ice was (worse than MSG?), which would perhaps explain the choppiness of the Habs game (and Nathan Beaulieu’s whiff on a perfect Weise pass to him in the slot after Galchenyuk had tied the game) and he confidently predicted the Habs power play would bounce back after a very bad session, which it did. What a refreshing change from “We have to get pucks in deep”.

THE BAD

  • P.K. Subban. Maybe it was the ice. He clearly wasn’t himself through the first two periods. He had company but without Carey Price, Subban is the Habs most important player.
  • Bad line change by Plekanec and Pacioretty after their first shift in the second period as they headed to the bench while the Devils had the puck in the neutral zone. It led to a 4 on 2 which Adam Henrique finished off to open the scoring.
  • Devils power play goal by Lee Stempniak. Beautiful cross ice pass by Cammalleri but Jeff Petry was way too soft in front of the net.
  • Ice time for key players. They got the two points but at what cost for the second half of the back to back? Let’s see how Subban (27:11), Markov (24:35), Plekanec (21:35), Pacioretty (20:26) and Fleischmann (19:48) follow this up. Probably as good a time as any for Galchenyuk (16:59) to hit the 20:00 mark for the first time in his career.

THE UGLY

  • RDS Report that Price is out for at least a month with a right knee injury. For now. While Marc Bergevin can’t get a James Taylor song out of his mind.

 

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